“Usable”. A word that has been placed at the center of the debate in light of the pandemic: what is useful, what is not? A question that fascinates Victor Branquart, founder and editor-in-chief of the biennial review Usable, which emphasizes everyday things “current and concrete, meeting essential needs”. Each publication will focus on a specific theme. The first issue, which has just been released, invites us to revisit the cabin.
A hybrid format at the intersection of the magazine and the activity book, combining a journalistic, philosophical and educational approach. Here is the idea of the magazine Usable, created by Victor Branquart, self-taught journalist. This ‘collection sheet’, as he likes to call it, was presented as a tool to reconcile theory and practice.
Usable, it’s about fifty pages (+3 if we count the plans) divided into four main headings, each around a certain term. The first issue is for sale in various cultural outlets and bookshops, both in France and in Belgium. It opens with a large file exploring the many facets of the hut: that of our childhood, up to the architectural ideal, through the tool of battle.
Readers can also discover the work of artist Tadashi Kawamata, known for his huts on the facades of city buildings. At the end of the review, a guide teaches us how to build his own cabin (without nails or screws). Interview with the founder.
How did you come up with the idea to make this magazine?
I was inspired by several titles. For example, the review “Nichons-nous dans l’Internet”, whose idea is to tell a digital culture in writing before it disappears. The second, “Hobbies”, discusses people’s hobbies. I had the opportunity to write articles for these two publications and this made me want to create my own magazine.
While incarcerated, I was lucky enough to have time to reflect on my way of life. I told myself that maybe there were other ways of doing things or acquiring technical skills to become autonomous. A way to respond to the climate emergency that affects us all.
I also found that the media landscape lacked a magazine whose common thread would be to tell stories around everyday objects or practices, and then put them into practice thanks to advice and learning resources (plans, tutorials, updates on legal provisions, etc.). From there I started working on this idea.
Why did you choose the cabin theme for the first issue?
The principle ofUsable is to think in terms of seasonality (and not in quarters). So I told myself that summer lent itself quite well to the cabin. This theme also seems quite universal to me: it is at the same time an object, a concept and a format that can be found in different periods, in almost all ages of life and in many cultures.
Have you already chosen the following themes?
There will probably be an issue about picking, canning, sewing… I also plan to devote two full songs to cycling.
What place do you devote to ecology in your magazine?
It seems to me that, at least on an individual level, the ecological transition also involves making things yourself, striving for more autonomy to think about the way things are designed, about the energy you put into making them, etc. For example, planting a vegetable garden, generating your own energy… And that is one of Ut!le’s ambitions: to demonstrate with concrete advice and tools that the transition can be pleasant and can lead to virtuous change.
If you had to define the word “useful” in one sentence?
Which serves both the individual and the community, which is universal and can be put into practice. The idea ofUsable is also to make each theme accessible to as many people as possible by breaking certain stereotypes related to gender or age: for example, those according to which only men aged 30-40 are interested in DIY.
One of Ut!le’s ambitions is also to put our habits, our needs and our lifestyle into perspective. How do you analyze the promise of the world of tomorrow that we were served in 2020 with society as we know it in 2022?
The word that instinctively comes to mind is “disappointed”. I expected an electric shock, broader societal changes, especially at the corporate level. Still, I don’t think it’s a complete failure. I have the impression that the awakening has happened before on the part of the citizens, who have changed their living environment or reconsidered their practices. For example, I have friends who have changed jobs (including a friend who has become an ‘activist baker’), who have stopped flying or who have left Paris to settle in the countryside… But it is true that I generally expected more.
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