The mag redefining how we think about our senses

Watch the teaser trailer for the fourth issue of Anja Rubik’s 25 magazine, paying homage to touch, smell, sight, taste and sound

With the latest issue of 25 comes the reimagining of how we perceive five things most of us take for granted: our ability to touch, hear, see, smell and taste. Coming out once a year, 25 has already deconstructed the theme of the erotic through the female gaze, collaborating with photographers like Inez Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and profiling women such as Marina Abramovic and Stella McCartney.

Editor-in-chief and model Anja Rubik has brought together the creative minds of Araki, Ben Gorham, Daniel Arsham, JR and Woodkid for the fourth issue of the annual print with a fresh take on sensuality. In her editor's letter, Rubik notes that sex is the only action in which all of our five senses are fully stimulated, and the erotic is deeply explored in the pages of 25. This issue includes a special scented bookmark by Byredo and a selection of thoughtfully curated textured papers to inspire each of the senses.

And in a collaborative project with Paola Kudacki, and musician Woodkid, Soundlab brings together artists such as Mykki Blanco, Say Lou Lou and A-Trak to discuss their first experiences of sound and how it affected their perception of music. Rubik herself has also directed a teaser trailer for 25, featuring Andreea Dianconu, weighed heavy by the memories each sense enacts in this saturated fashion film.

We spoke to Rubik to discuss the new issue, her directorial process and the sensory experience.

Where did the concept to explore the senses come from?

Anja Rubik: This idea came to me actually through a few sources: first I read a book called Stranger in a Strange Land that was published in 1961. It's science fiction and basically there's a character in the book that was raised on Mars and he comes back to earth and he has a completely different connection to his body, he's way more connected to his intuition and to his senses and complete control over the body. And that kind of somehow started the idea in my head of five senses, and how actually nowadays we live in a world where we kind of forget about these prime teachers that we're born with: our five senses. Everything that we experience from the world and everything that comes to us is kind of delivered and filtered through those receptors, and I thought that it's really fascinating.

As I wrote in my editor's letter, the first breath we take on earth when we're born, you know, it's like cold air we're not used to so our mother wraps us in a warm blanket, we feel her warmth, we smell her, and that's how we learn comfort. We gather that information through our five senses, so I thought that was really interesting. There’s a trend of living in the present, in the now, and I read a few books around it, and I was thinking that the only way of living in the present moment is through the five senses, if we really focus on what we're hearing right now or we're feeling what when we touch something, when we smell in the present, right now, that gives us the perfect immediate moment and that's the only way we can connect to that.

What were the contemporary influences for the theme?

Anja Rubik: I also started to think about the fact that today a lot of people live in a big city where there are a lot of things to smell and a lot of noise, so at the same time we learn to disconnect with our senses. In 25 there's always a lot of art, so I was wondering how artists use their senses. Anything that they create is based on what they first gathered from their five senses, and everything inside of was analysed and produced based on that information. I was really interested to speak to a lot of artists to see how they create, how they use their senses – does one sense inspire the other, do they complement each other? In a moment where one sense is weaker, does another sense become stronger?

Your editor’s letter suggests that each sense interconnects with sex for example. How do they intersect?

Anja Rubik: When I was creating this issue I thought of separating the book and doing five chapters, each dedicated to one sense, but once I started to work on the book I realised that didn't make any sense because the way we live, the way we create, the way artists work, they don't really separate those senses so drastically, it's all bunched together. One inspires the other, it's all very individual. When I spoke to Woodkid, the musician, he was telling me about how he composes music, and he builds an image in his head, like a story, so it's complete visualisation. Then through that he gets inspired and creates music, and if he's stuck on creating a melody or a new song he goes back to that visualisation, and finds that image that then translates into music. Then I spoke to Daniel Arsham and he tells how his work is influenced by the fact that he's colour blind.

How did you bring the concept to each contributor?

Anja Rubik: Well I knew I would approach Woodkid as the first person, because he's a very good friend of mine and he's incredibly creative. He came from video-making and then started composing music, so I spoke to him first and that led me to actually meeting JR who was also a contributor. I researched his work and realised that it fit perfectly with the issue. And then I also know Ben Gorham really well and I thought he could work really well for the sense of smell. I realised it would be amazing to get an olfactory scientist on board and speak to them – that's how I got to Gayil Nalls. One artist led me to another one. When I approached contributors, I wanted to see how they stimulated people through the senses in their work. We did a piece on Ben Gorham and Carsten Höller. Carsten's work is incredibly interactive and stimulates the five senses. I curated the whole issue based on intuition, there's no real system behind it. If I feel that the person's energy is right and the subject really fits, and they have something really inspiring to say, I just go with it.

“I was really interested to speak to a lot of artists to see how they create, how they use their senses ­– does one sense inspire the other, do they complement each other?” – Anja Rubik

And what was the process like for creating the Soundlab film?

Anja Rubik: I was working with Paola Kudacki on the Soundlab film it was a collaboration of people that I knew and I thought could be really interesting. I wanted to focus on younger talents and I knew G-Eazy really well, so I approached him because I thought he could represent one genre of music. I wanted some from classical, some from rap, some from pop, as I wanted there to be this really beautiful mix of opinions from different sides. It was really a combination of people that I knew that I liked, that Woodkid helped arrange. The magazine is really small: there's really me, the art director Julien Gallico, and Managing Director Sarah Chavez, so everything happens in a very friendly, intimate environment.

What for you were the most interesting things to come out of the Soundlab video that the musicians talked about?

Anja Rubik: I really found it quite intriguing when they spoke about sounds that they grew up with, which sounds they remember from childhood. That was just fascinating because somehow it connects really well with what they're doing nowadays. 

Mykki Blanco said that she heard Beck whenever she was seven and it blew her away.

Anja Rubik: Which is great because you know we did a whole piece on an artist, Mati Klarwein, who created visuals for records and he created one of the first Beck records, it's funny how things unconsciously tie together really nicely.

Can you describe your directorial process when shooting the Five Senses teaser with Milk Studios for 25?

Anja Rubik: Well, usually I come up with a concept and I approach a director to create the teaser, but this time since I was really engaged in the subjects and it was something that I was completely passionate about.

I had this very strong idea in my head and I was afraid that if I were to go to a director, I would be on top of them completely. I decided to take a chance and I spoke to the director of photography, Santiago Gonzalez, and I told him my vision. I said this is how I want it, this is how precisely how I want to shoot it, and he agreed to do it with me. It came along really natural, because obviously I know his work very well from the other and I know how to be in front of the camera it was very easy for me to direct models, because it was just an experience that I had from the past.

What was it like actually filming?

Anja Rubik: The process after the shoot really intrigued me. I thought the most fun I would have would be actually on the day of the shoot, but then editing, and colour correcting, and working on the music for the video – I worked with an amazing guy to create the music and that was a new experience, I didn't think I would enjoy it as much. The idea was that I wanted to focus on sensory memory and I wanted the girl to relive moments from her past that were so strong that it brings out all these emotions and stimulates all her senses, and with it complete fulfilment.

How did you find directing Andrea Diaconu as a model yourself? 

Anja Rubik: I know her really well because we've worked together on set many times, and I think because I've been in front of the camera for so many years, I kind of knew how to approach her so she feels comfortable and relaxed. She was really good, she's an amazing model, but I felt quite comfortable in explaining what I need, and that came through the experience that I had, that I received throughout all these years being on that side of the camera. 

Do you think you'll continue exploring life as a director?

Anja Rubik: Yeah I think I'm definitely interested in doing some more work, and the project has to be right, the idea has to be right, and it has to be something that I'm really passionate about. 

So what is next for 25? What do you see doing with this issue and beyond?

Anja Rubik: Well right now I'm focusing because it's an issue per year, so I'll be launching the issue in Hong Kong, and basically we're just launching it all around the world – in Berlin, and possibly in London in the beginning of the year, so I guess promoting this issue for now, and slowly thinking about the subject for the next one.

ISSUE 04 is available for purchase here