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Take that, Maisonneuve!

Creative tycoons lab.synthèse expand their empire with new magazine

Over the overpass, under the track lighting of a converted industrial space, the inhabitants of lab.synthèse are living the po-mo boho dream. Their spacious apartment on Beaubien O. has become a hub of musical and artistic activity, with an ever-growing constituency of hepcats making their way to the venue to enjoy film screenings, theatre performances, and dimly-lit dance parties. The young masterminds behind these happenings will soon be adding another element to the roster – a magazine appropriately titled Beaubien, set to launch at November’s Expozine.

“My sense of lab.synthèse is one of an institution truly coming into its own after a tumultuous but wholly successful year of trial and error,” says Trevor Barton, recent Concordia graduate and one of Beaubien’s seven editors. “[Putting] together [Beaubien’s] first issue is a microcosm of that process.”

The editorial team also includes Concordia student Jeff Boyd, and McGill students Rosie Aiello, Claire Boucher, and Alex Cowan, as well as “blissfully unassociated” Sebastian Cowan and Emily Kai Bock. None of the magazine’s staff have any prior experience in self-publishing – a world often fraught with minimal budgets and distribution challenges. Luckily, Beaubien’s editors can call upon their creative friends – and Daily readers – to provide the content.

Unlike other Montreal-born magazines Lickety Split – a self-proclaimed “pansexual smut zine” – and Worn Fashion Journal, Barton admits Beaubien’s team has not yet identified a specific theme for contributors to follow. “We are bound to take a lot from this initial experience and definitely sharpen and narrow our themes and objectives heading into future issues,” he says, “but, as simplistic as it may sound, at this point, we are merely looking to be impressed.”

Spend an afternoon perusing the zine library at Mile End café Le Cagibi, and it will become clear: the freedom afforded by self-publishing often translates directly into unbridled subjectivity. Although this freedom can also translate into unsubstantiated ranting, the world of underground publishing plays a crucial role in the ecology of the printed word.

Canada has one of the world’s most consolidated media systems, meaning that an exceptionally large amount of the country’s mainstream media is in the hands of very few people. Once a publication is absorbed into the corporate blob, it becomes vulnerable to the whims and philosophies of the big kahuna – a recent example being he Gazette reporters’ struggle with CanWest, the newspaper’s owner. Putting out a magazine like Beaubien may not be a direct blow to corporate media, but it can be a defence of unhindered creativity. Original voices are sorely needed in the face of such massive editorial homogenization.

“Academia encourages us to constantly subsume and obscure the subjective element in any analysis,” Barton points out. “We would rather encourage the presence of the individual bend in any piece.”

While the Internet arguably affords the same opportunity, a magazine like Beaubien does what no personal blog can: give young writers and artists the chance to see their ideas in hard copy, validated by the work of the printing press. Lab.synthèse also plans to distribute Beaubien outside Montreal – namely, in Vancouver, Toronto, and New York.

Barton says they are hoping to reflect lab.synthèse’s “aesthetic attitude which is at once esoteric and diverse” in contributions ranging from “poetry, short stories, black and white illustrations, and editorials, to research-based columns on any topic.” The Beaubien team will be accepting submissions until November 1 and debuting the first issue at Expozine, taking place at the end of November. Contribute with the knowledge that you are building something beautiful.

All submissions can be sent to