John Knechtel

John Knechtel is Director of Alphabet City Media in Toronto.

  • Air

    Air

    Alphabet City Magazine 15

    John Knechtel

    Writers, artists, and scholars consider the fragility of air, the ultimate commons.

    The thin layer of atmosphere that clings to the surface of our planet is a fragile and corrupted brew. Air is in constant, restless migration around the globe, connecting us in the most intimate fashion. From the dust storms that sweep into Beijing from faraway deserts to the smog from Chinese factories that shrouds Los Angeles, our air, the ultimate commons, is tragically defenseless. Breathing air is an involuntary physical function, but keeping the air breathable requires acts of political imagination and will. Air considers the condition of this basic component of life on earth from a range of perspectives. It reveals the thick materiality of air, air as stinky, clotted, corrupted matter—in a word, dirty. We see the stuff of air in the form of molecules from disintegrating artworks, or as the material for building forms; as the bearer of scents and germs and as the substrate for communications both digital and pneumatic. Here, an asthmatic strains to inhale the air that bears the cause of her distress; a philosopher muses on the intelligibility of air; an artist dreams of being the accountant of dust; and city construction sheds are replaced by a floating “urbanCLOUD.” Air leads us to perceive air, and the imperative to protect it, anew.

    • Hardcover $4.75 £3.99
  • Water

    Water

    Alphabet City Magazine 14

    John Knechtel

    Writers and artists offer new perspectives on water, with writings and projects that touch on subjects ranging from new water infrastructures to the bliss of bathing.

    Water is the chemical matrix required for life, the molecular chain that connects all organisms on the planet. But in the twenty-first century, water may replace oil as the most prized of resources. Just as gas-guzzling SUVs use more than their share of fuel, water-guzzling regions threaten the water supply for the rest of the world. In Water, writers, scientists, architects, and artists consider the many aspects of water, at levels from the microscopic to the global, touching on subjects that range from new water infrastructures to ancient bathing rituals. Water includes a chemist's accounting of the true cost of water; photographs taken inside a city's secret waterways; an urban planner's description of how Toronto, New York, Hamburg, and Seoul have redesigned and rethought their waterfront areas; a conceptual artist's series of water bottles “branded” with various modern credos; photographs of a water-damaged ledger from the 1905 Yukon gold rush; two architects' rethinking of how to collect, divert, and transport water from water-rich to water-poor regions; a philosopher's invocation of the spiritual lessons of water; and photographs of a disturbingly beautiful flooded landscape.

    • Hardcover $9.75 £7.99
  • Fuel

    Fuel

    Alphabet City Magazine 13

    John Knechtel

    Writers and artists imagine the transition to a carbon-free future and the radical reinvention of energy that would make it possible.

    How will the world work in the pos-toil, post-coal future? Our transition could take the form of disastrous collapses in economic, political, and economic systems—or of a radical reinvention of energy. We could relapse into a new Dark Ages, or we could shift to a new economic model and international order that's not based on (the appropriately named) “fossil” fuels but on renewable energy. No matter what, global warming and resource scarcity will force us to do something. To avert environmental and economic disaster, we'll have to think beyond the weekly fluctuations in the price of gasoline and consider larger matters. In Fuel, writers and artists imagine the transition to a carbon-free future: an architect plans “Velo-city,” a network of elevated bikeways; a designer models a perfectly internalized, tail-chasing energy system; an urbanist examines the new "Oil Cities" in Dubai and Saudi Arabia; a photographer documents the social and environmental damage done by the oil industry in Nigeria; and an architect proposes that oil rigs be turned into sanctuaries for marine and avian wildlife. Reading Fuel, we read our current energy moment in the broader context of a range of possible futures.

    • Hardcover $4.75 £3.99
  • Food

    Food

    Alphabet City Magazine 12

    John Knechtel

    As the slow food movement meets fast food nation and eating locally collides with on-demand arugula, our food habits are shifting: writers and artists examine and imagine these changes, from the idea of a farm in a skyscraper to a map of fruit that falls on public property, from the genealogy of an organic bento box to a tale of chop suey and egg rolls.

    Food is essential to our sense of place and our sense of self, but today—as fast food nation meets the slow food movement and eating locally collides with on-demand arugula—our food habits are shifting. Food examines and imagines these changes, with projects by writers and artists that explore the cultural and emotional resonance of food, from the “everyday Dada” of mashed potatoes and Jell-O to the rocket science of food eaten by astronauts in space. In Food, an artist photographs everything he ate in 2006 (and some things he didn't eat, including “Food I Left in the Fridge Too Long”) and finds the results both “seductive and repulsive”; a writer describes the global agro-assembly line that produces an organic bento box for Japanese commuters containing rice and vegetables from California, pork from Mexico, and salmon from Alaska; a short story writer offers an eight-page graphic novel, Eating in Cafeterias; a landscape architect compares a commercial orange with an organic apple using visualized data; an award-winning New York City food writer tells a postmodern tale about small-town Chinese-American cuisine (featuring chop suey, egg rolls, and flaming lava cocktails); an expert explains the principles of urban food sustainability. Other projects include a map of the free food from fruit trees on public land in a Los Angeles neighborhood, a visionary plan for farms in skyscrapers, and a surprising report on food security. The essays, artwork, and stories in Food offer readers a full menu of intellectual nourishment and aesthetic delight.

    • Hardcover $9.75 £7.99
  • Suspect

    Suspect

    Alphabet City Magazine 10

    John Knechtel

    Essays, graphic novels, films, and commentary examine the figure of the suspect and the politics of suspicion in a post-9/11 world.

    What is the condition of the suspect in a post-9/11 world? Do perpetual detention, ubiquitous surveillance cameras, and the legal apparatus of the USA Patriot Act target suspects accurately or generate suspicion indiscriminately? Suspect, the latest in a series from Alphabet City and the first in its new format of topical book-length magazines, gathers hard evidence about the fate of the suspect in a culture of suspicion with contributions from writers, artists, and filmmakers. Their testimony takes a multiplicity of forms and formats. Among them: A 24-page color comic by graphic novelist Joey Dubuc asks the reader to make narrative choices in a web of surveillance, suspicion, and fear. Harper's contributor Mark Kingwell observes that while suspicion tries to isolate the suspect, in fact we are all the suspect. Slavoj Zizek reflects on the new cultural status of the suspect after Abu Ghraib. Philosopher George Bragues argues that even as the United Nations looks for ways to discipline "suspect nations," it simply cannot succeed under current international conditions. Alphabet City editor John Knechtel interviews Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, about the legal and political strategies of the Bush administration. Sylwia Chrostowska describes what happens, in the the 1970 Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, when a corrupt official investigates himself. Screenwriter Timothy Stock and illustrator Warren Heise create a documentary in comic form about Critical Ensemble artist Steve Kurtz, charged under the bioterrorism provisions of the Patriot Act. Novelist Camilla Gibb portrays, in "Things Collapse," the terrifying effects of a "separating sickness" of unknown origin, which perhaps exists only in the fears of the population it strikes. And novelist Diana Fitzgerald Bryden follows her character Rafa Ahmed, a PFLP hijacker from the 1970s, as, many years later, she is to appear at a peace conference. Filmmaker Patricia Rozema, director of Mansfield Park and other films, contributes a 16-page film-in-a-book, "Suspect." Suspect is a non-partisan handbook on the mechanisms and machinations of suspicion for the twenty-first century national security state.

    • Hardcover $4.75 £3.99

Contributor

  • Subtitles

    Subtitles

    On the Foreignness of Film

    Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour

    Translating the experience of film: filmmakers, writers, and artists explore the elements of film that make us feel "outside and inside at the same time."

    "Every film is a foreign film," Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour tell us in their introduction to Subtitles. How, then, to translate the experience of film—which, as Egoyan says, makes us "feel outside and inside at the same time"? Taking subtitles as their point of departure, the thirty-two contributors to this unique collection consider translation, foreignness, and otherness in film culture. Their discussions range from the mechanics and aesthetics of subtitles themselves to the xenophobic reaction to translation to subtitles as a metaphor for the distance and intimacy of film. The essays, interviews, and visuals include a collaboration by Russell Banks and Atom Egoyan, which uses quotations from Banks's novel The Sweet Hereafter as subtitles for publicity stills from Egoyan's film of the book; three early film reviews by Jorge Luis Borges; an interview with filmmaker Claire Denis about a scene in her film Friday Night that should not have been subtitled; and Eric Cazdyn's reading of the running subtitles on CNN's post-9/11 newscasts as a representation of new global realities. Several writers deal with translating cultural experience for an international audience, including Frederic Jameson on Balkan cinema, John Mowitt on the history of the "foreign film" category in the Academy Awards, and Ruby Rich on the marketing of foreign films and their foreign languages—"Somehow, I'd like to think it's harder to kill people when you hear their voices," she writes. And Slavoj Zizek considers the "foreign gaze" (seen in films by Hitchcock, Lynch, and others), the misperception that sees too much. Designed by Egoyan and award-winning graphic designer Gilbert Li, the book includes many color images and ten visual projects by artists and filmmakers. The pages are horizontal, suggesting a movie screen; they use the cinematic horizontal aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Subtitles gives us not only a new way to think about film but also a singular design object.Subtitles is being copublished by The MIT Press and Alphabet City Media (John Knechtel, Director). Subtitles has been funded in part by grants from The Canada Council for the Arts, The Henry N.R. Jackman Foundation, and the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council.

    • Hardcover $39.95 £32.00