Forming like the 1980s cartoon robot Voltron, Costa Rican and international designers, artists, writers and photographers come together every three months and become Revista Colectiva (Collective Magazine), a progressive new magazine forging a path for art and graphic design in Costa Rica.
Now in its sixth edition, Revista Colectiva is the brainchild of Juan Manuel Betancourt, and a labor of love shouldered largely by Betancourt, his girlfriend Isabel Herrera and his “right-hand man,” Rodolfo Bonilla. While the publication is similar to art and design magazines found in cities around the world, especially in cultural capitals such as New York and London, it is unique and groundbreaking in Costa Rica.
The magazine reflects a style of design that runs in currents worldwide, combining original art with photography and collage, and is influenced as much by graffiti and 1950s advertising as by fine art. Produced in Spanish, with occasional English writings thrown in, it is distinctly fresh and hip, aesthetically intriguing and peppered with images and written compositions that speak for more than just the joy of making noise. There is meaning in between the pages.
Betancourt and his accomplices try to foster this by assigning a theme to each issue. The sixth edition, released March 25, is “Machine,” in which dozens of creative minds poke, prod, stretch and explore the idea page by page, from an exposition and examination of the cassette tape (“What is a cassette tape, really? A relic? A cult object? The emotional part of the machine? A memory?”), past page after page of robots and wired humans, to a story about a time machine.
“There aren’t clear limits,” Betancourt said, sitting in his home office in the western San José neighborhood of Rohrmoser, surrounded by toy robots, stickers and stacks of Revista Colectiva magazines. The Venezuelan, 35, explained that the idea becomes a motor for the creative process for each edition. On the last page of every issue, the next issue’s theme and a call for submissions are published.
Though born in Costa Rica, the magazine is an international entity. Each issue begins by profiling four recognized foreign designers and artists, giving brief biographies of the featured individuals (or groups) and then dedicating a few pages to their work.
That work is then backed up by submissions and staff art throughout the rest of the magazine.
“It’s something global, but it reflects the Tico design movement,” Betancourt said, estimating that 30-40 people are represented in each issue.
While the foreign artists – usually with an established name in the graphic design world – are invitees, many of the rest of the pages are paid space, where artists cough up $50 to have a page to themselves, with contact info included (e-mail address, Web site). In addition, the artists get three gift-wrapped copies of the issue sent to their home (anywhere in the world) and free entrance to the launch party held when the edition is released. In addition to the paid pages, a section entitled “Ride Free” asks readers to document a trip anywhere – to a beach or another country – and submit it. One submission is chosen and featured for free in each issue.
The launch party, the submission fees and the ¢1,500 ($3) cover price are all ways in which Betancourt is trying to fund the magazine, which he says has yet to pay for itself.
“It’s a little difficult,” Betancourt said. “There isn’t as much interest in new things (in San José). And it’s very sectarian. You have a guy who lives in (the western suburb of) Escazú, and he never leaves Escazú. A guy who lives in Heredia (north of the capital) goes maybe once a week to San José.”
However, Betancourt said, each issue grows, both in the quality of work (Betancourt and his small staff select which submissions they will include) and in its support.
Advertising is growing, he said, with at least one new client each month. Sales are slowly growing. He estimated that of the 2,500 issues printed for the fifth edition, titled “Flor y Fauna,” they distributed 1,500-2,000 copies and reached nearly 80 countries.
Many of those international recipients are the artists themselves, he conceded, but many are also subscribers. Revista Colectiva, however, has yet to establish any newsstands to carry the magazine internationally.
“We are opening a path in Costa Rica so that other, similar things can come through,” Betancourt said, adding that he hopes for competition someday soon. “Surely something similar is going to come out.”
In Costa Rica, Revista Colectiva can be found in a variety of stores, cafés and restaurants, including Café de las Artistas in Escazú and Café Saudade,Mora Books,Area City and Lubnan in San José. For more points of sale, as well as graphics, info and entertainment, check out www.revistacolectiva.com.