A Self Portrait by Ian Sternthal, Collage, 2001.
Welcome To The Sternthal Journal
The Sternthal Journal aims to broadcast socially relevant voices, infusing the worlds of art and design with philosophical and political introspection. I have never liked authority, and I believe that each individual, so long as they are not harming others, should have the right to determine how they are seen and heard. The goal of this space is to use images, videos, and prose in order to examine political questions from a visual perspective. The articles we publish will sometimes accompany our existing projects, allowing readers to gain more contextual information about our various publications, but they will also highlight cultural innovators, social injustices, and a variety of ‘cultural’ as opposed to ‘current events’ news.
My interest in the relationship between aesthetics and politics originated with my own experience as a chubby and acne-ridden gay nineteen year old. Unable to discuss my sexuality, I began to explore my sub-conscious through the construction of collages. I don’t really remember how it began, but the freedom inherent in no longer hiding, in being seen and heard, was palpable. The ability to subvert reality and make it obey my desires provided me with a voice, and gave me powerful insights into the manner in which identity constructions occur. I spent a year holed up in my room, with my collages piling up underneath my bed. I was very secretive and told few people about them, but I knew that something very special was happening to me. I was in the process of constructing my own persona. I was taking agency; whatever could not be achieved in real life, could be given expression through my imagination. Constructing self-portrait narratives, I was able to counter my invisibility.
This journal is a continuation of the journey that began all those years ago. I started Sternthal Books when I realized how exploitative the art book publishing industry was towards young artists and writers. In 2008 I signed a contract with a prominent art book publishing company to publish a book I had written and curated titled My Huleh Project. The book is a personal meditation on art and cultural memory in Israel, which uses found and created images to re-imagine Zionism through artistic expression, focusing on the role that fictions play in the creation of cultural memories. I hoped that this work might open people’s hearts and minds towards a different future, in a region plagued by dogmatism and xenophobia.
My initial enthusiasm was tempered by the publisher’s requirement that I guarantee the purchase of the first 1000 copies of the book, the first copy always being the most expensive of any print run. The publisher would then print an additional 1000 copies which would be distributed internationally. I would receive only 8 percent of sales after their expenses had been covered. I hesitantly accepted, but when I submitted the final product to the publisher– having worked with my own designer, editor, and copyeditor – I was astounded by the cost. I consulted with other printers – and realized that there were all kinds of hidden mark ups that had grossly inflated the price. It didn’t matter that I had devoted five years of my life to this project. They had a solidified distribution network, and an established audience, and therefore also the ability to exploit my work.
It was at that moment that I cancelled the contract, determined to find a way to not only realize my own work, but also to create a system that would help other artists and thinkers create and distribute their work without being subjected to the exploitation that is so prevalent in this industry.
Sternthal Books is devoted to helping young artists emerge, enabling them to create, market, and sell their work internationally. Creative expression has the power to enable the disenfranchised to be heard. Sharing, creating, and listening to a variety of perspectives is the only way we can draw attention to critical issues, and make the world a more enlightened and tolerant place.