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Interview with Juan Lopez
Gato Negro, Mexico City

Mexico City-based publisher Juan Lopez on just doing what seems significant to him. One of the books released by Gato Negro was, for instance, “La palabra disfrazada de carne”, a collection of essays by Elfriede Jelinek. A good reason to talk.

How many people are working on Gato Negro? Three of us form the backbone, but there are many more friends that help us.

What is significant for Gato Negro and its books? That’s a big question, but let me mention one thing. Gato Negro was born out of the desire to publish books. It reminds me of the first time I started to write with my parent’s typewriter, it was very satisfying to put something down on paper, so I started to write down any idea, simply out of the desire to use the machine (or maybe to be used by the machine). So Gato Negro, as it functions today, was born from the desire to print books using a Riso printer. At the beginning there was not a clear idea about what kind of books we wanted or we could make, there was no collection such as we more or less have today, and there was no concept that we wanted to pursuit. I think the only idea was a clearly designed book.

Juan Lopez

Printing room

What are the pros and cons of printed matter nowadays? That’s a good question but I don’t know. If you juxtapose printed and digital matter, you end up defending printed matter as a technology with specific characteristics that cannot be replaced by other media. For example, a book is an object composed of bound pages; that means that first you need time to browse each of them. At the same time, each page has a meaning and is linked to the rest by a single structure defined by the book structure. This union between form and meaning cannot be replicated by other media. We try, in some books, to experiment with this logic, in other words: linking meanings by the opposition defined by the pages. Strangely enough, often times people ask us to use an introduction to present this kind of work, but we’re still convinced that this is useless as it has to speak for itself; explaining it is like explaining a joke.

Which categories determine your selection of topics, artists and texts that you publish? We started by following a feeling, but now we are developing some new collections of books such as photo-books or a series of manifestos, so we are more sensitive to such themes.

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Gato Negro titles

At the art book fair Index I was tempted by “The Book of Pleasures” by Raoul Vaneigem. Is it easy to get the rights to famous authors and their titles? I think the most complicated thing is to contact the authors, but once we manage to reach them, it’s quite easy. At least with the books that we have published. But we have sent many emails without ever getting an answer, so what is published is just good luck. 

Patio at Gato Negro

What number of copies do you normally produce? Normally one hundred, lately double that, but not many more. We don’t have the organization or the hands to print more than that.  

You are present in all the great art book fairs around the world. You sell your books quite prominently, such as at the MOMA PS1 NY, Anagram Books in Europe, Motto and so on. How long did it take to get there? What are the next steps? It has taken three years more or less. I would like to continue printing books for many more years but I would also like not to depend on other jobs and to concentrate on Gato Negro to make better books. That would be not just a step but a huge leap forward.

You are the punks among publishers, can you remain faithful to this anarchic and combative standpoint. You call yourself gato negro ninja. I think being a publisher in Mexico means being punk because Mexico has one of the worst average reading rates. The fact is that almost nobody reads here. I always remember that Radiget once said something like “the people who start out standing and shouting end up being the ones who are sitting.” So I don’t feel completely anarchic and combative, even if I really would like to; I’m just doing what is meaningful for us or for me.

What’s the best book shop in town? The book stores that sell our books of course! To be realistic, I don’t have that much money. So as to not depress myself, I prefer going to second hand books stores, I feel rich there.

Many thanks!

Interview: Dajana Dorfmayr