It’s telling of The Way We Live Now that self-imposed ephemerality is a trend. Pop-ups of all stripes — restaurants, shops, even parks — comprise a fad that, paradoxically, I suppose, doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. The appeal of the pop-up, as I see and understand it, is that it gives whatever is popping-up an irresistible sheen of newness (“I’ve never seen that before!”) and infuses it with the perfume of imminent disappearance (“I may never see that again!”). What distinguishes the plurality of pop-ups from a Brand New Limited Time Offer from, say, McDonald’s is that they are often associated with words like gourmet, boutique, experiential.
If the pop-up is a gimmick, then that’s not to say it doesn’t address a modern need, namely, the need for some things to come and go in an age when all things, every last bit of datum, from txt mssges to store purchases to Google searches, come and never go. People may be on the fence about the permanence of all things said, snapped, and clicked — that the Library of Alexandria could never burn in our time is both exhilarating and oppressive — but, poised halfway along a virtual gangplank, most of those people would head toward the pulsating light of a MacBook Pro rather than turn back to the halcyon days when Nokia reigned supreme on the invertebrate back of Snake. Indeed, we are enjoying the Internet Age, with all its sharing and tweeting and pinning, and, despite our hand-wringing, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Unless, of course, the other way pops up. Exhibit A: Pop-Up Magazine, which is based in San Francisco and describes itself as “the world’s first live magazine, created for a stage, a screen, and a live audience. Nothing will arrive in your mailbox; no content will go online. An issue exists for one night, in one place.” Here’s how thebolditalic.com writer Caleb Garling described Pop-Up Magazine in a recent profile:
It’s a collection of multimedia and spoken-word stories delivered to a ticketed crowd. During Pop-Up, taking pictures or recording anything on your iPhone is forbidden. And later, there is no website to follow up on any of the specifics you heard at the event. Each “issue” can be found only on the newsstand of your memory.
The idea came to founder Douglas McGray, a magazine writer, when he had the epiphany that there was no good reason he didn’t know people who worked in other media formats (radio, filmmaking, photography, etc.) and that a lot of good would come of combining the strengths of these formats into a live performance. McGray’s media cocktail proved a success, with “issues” (i.e., 90-minute performances) of Pop-Up Magazine selling out within hours. (It helps that performers include contributors to eminent, non-pop-up publications, from The New Yorker to National Geographic.)
As detailed in Garling’s profile, performances start with Shorts, “where authors offer quick, punchy thought nuggets for the audience to ingest”, and then move on to Features, which, as in a print magazine, are the meat of the production. There are also enacted advertisements and, at least once, there was a crossword puzzle, performed live.
How cool is that?
If Pop-Up Magazine seems like an only-in-San-Fran kinda concept — it does reek of the Bay, doesn’t it? — consider that, despite having roots in the West Coast, the pop-up trend has already made its way to Miami in several forms (eatery, bar, park). Given the emergence of Miami’s music, art, and poetry scenes, why not a pop-up magazine to kidnap us from FarmVille for a night?
And should it fail, remember: the pop-up leaves no paper trail.