Slovenia-based publishing house Look Back and Laugh prints innovative Risograph art books
Look Back and Laugh founder Zoran Pungerčar talks to us about expanding the cultural scene of Ljubljana and the beauty of diversifying art book publishing.
- Joey Levenson
- 7 March 2022
Publishing house Look Back and Laugh has caught our attention for a while now. It’s mainly to do with the house’s output of innovative Risograph work from Slovenia, a fair niche to say the least, that makes for a fantastic array of art books from artists in an oft-overlooked art scene. “At first, Look Back and Laugh was just a space for trying new things that wouldn’t go through at my day job as a graphic designer,” founder Zoran Pungerčar tells It’s Nice That. “Once I started going to art book fairs my perspective changed, especially after Jure [Šajn] joined me.” It was the meeting of two great minds that allowed Look Back and Laugh to flourish into something much bigger, encompassing a publishing house that moved beyond just recognising the art of their friends. Now, Look Back and Laugh boasts an incredibly colourful assortment of books from all different types of artists everywhere.
“At the beginning we published mostly work from Slovenian artists, which is still important since the Slovenian art scene is not that well known internationally,” Zoran clarifies. “Later, we started contacting people whose work we liked, wherever it may be.” With a commitment to a fun, bold and graphic layouts, Look Back and Laugh is always looking to try new things. “Of course we try to maintain a certain aesthetic, although sometimes we publish something that is out of our box visually and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Zoran adds. “But it’s important we are trying new things and that we don’t limit ourselves too much.”
Two books in particular that stand out at Look Back and Laugh are Tivoli by Finnish video-artist Irene Suosalo and In Memory of the Present by Cameroonian graphic designer Sophia Douala, both of which blend the surreal and amorphous nature of pattern with the emotive possibilities of colour. “They’re the latest two books we published,” Zoran says. “Sophie’s book opened quite a few new things for us, since her material is based around stories and written text and usually we publish books that are more image oriented.” What came out of such a risk from Look Back and Laugh is an excellent book that is filled to the brim with colour and ink – a large feat considering it was Sophia’s first try at Riso. “Her book is one of the most complicated books we have ever printed, but we are really happy with the outcome and it was a great process that put us to another level,” Zoran explains. But, the pay-off of risk-taking hasn’t stopped there for Zoran and co. “Irene’s book is also special since we worked closely together with layout and curating the images that ended up in the book,” he adds. “She is primarily an animator so it was interesting to translate the moving images into stills.”
But where does Look Back and Laugh’s distinctive name and off-kilter visual identity exactly come from? It seems to be an amalgamation of sorts, combining retro cultural influences with a genuine admiration for Riso and typography. “Our name actually comes from a Minor Threat song,” Zoran tells us. “Both me and Jure grew up going to hardcore punk shows and the DIY mentality is something that shaped our perception of art and design very much.” As for their logo typeface, it comes from Monument Grotesk from Dinamo with a combination of using old sketches of all caps characters from Zoran’s old hard drive.
Interestingly, the publishing house maintains a strong relationship with Riso Paradise, a collective of six artists that share a Risograph workshop. “Me and Jure are both part of it and all the books are printed at the Riso Paradiso studio where we also have our design studio,” Zoran explains. It’s in-part why 98 per cent of their releases are printed on Riso. But, the team aren’t stopping at Riso with their innovative output. “Since the last couple of years we are also experimenting with apparel as a medium for graphic design and art and it’s been very fun,” Zoran says. “Doing clothes is similar to doing books in a way, but there is so much more to learn. We would love to expand that and try to do more complicated apparel and collaborate with like-minded people on it.” Ultimately, Look Back and Laugh have their sights set on a new list of artists they’re planning to work with, as well as continuing to advocate for Slovenia and Ljubljana as a cultural and creative hub. “We have a great music and art scene, there is an unreal amount of small galleries and other institutions in the city, and I would absolutely recommend everyone to check it out if they are in the region.”
Irene Suosalo: Tivoli (Copyright © Look Back and Laugh, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.