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In our second contribution to the current issue of Japanese Huge magazine, we talk about a store that we know very well indeed:

Motto is more than just a bookstore – it is a treasure cove for printed ephemera. Screen-printed artist books published by bedroom ventures in editions of a few hundred copies, handmade notebooks from Iran, photocopied fanzines from Australia, niche theories on art and life – chances are, Motto will have them stocked in one of their many piles looming in every corner of their beautiful store tucked away in a backyard in Berlin’s hip Kreuzberg neighbourhood, a wood panelled space that used to house a framing business from the 1920s. For someone who is interested in artist books, Motto is a somewhat overwhelming experience: paradise and hell at the same time. You just don’t know where to start.

But Motto is more than just a bookstore in other and more important ways – it has also developed into a worldwide distribution hub for independent art publishing, which is a role that cannot be underestimated. Motto are partly responsible for the explosion of independent publishing in recent years, by helping many of the titles spread and survive – our own magazine mono.kultur included.

As anyone in publishing will tell you – independent or not – the problem with creating a magazine is not the magazine. Commissioning and editing and designing the actual content is the fun part. The problem is usually who is going to pay for it – and how to get your magazine out into the world. While there exist many commercial distribution services around the world, independent and niche titles don’t normally meet the economic expectations to make them financially viable, and thus have always been struggling to find outlets for their work.

With Motto, all of a sudden, there was a platform for small publishers to have their products presented and distributed into the world. No matter how obscure the book – Motto would give it a chance. And by sheer accumulation of hundreds and hundreds of small titles, Motto became the first address to look for new discoveries, an important resource for the art world and design students alike. It became the missing link between niche publishers and their audience.

Motto was founded by Alexis Zavialoff, a former skater kid and a great photographer with an unhealthy interest in small magazines and fanzines. Simply trying to keep up with the rise of home publishing, he almost by accident expanded his hobby of importing and distributing fanzines to Switzerland into a worldwide operation. Which might sound like a commercial enterprise, but is actually driven by a lot of hard work and late hours by a small team of dedicated young people with a perplexing addiction to printed matter, who consider independent publishing as an art form in its own right. And as many of the small titles they represent, it is run on sheer love, determination and many cups of espresso.

Skalitzer Straße 68
10997 Berlin