Interview with Noah Becker, Artist, Musician and Whitehot Magazine Editor
by Lorien Suárez-Kanerva
Noah Becker was a pioneer who began Whitehot Magazine during the digital online magazine beginnings. Becker spoke in a matter of fact and incisive way about his experiences and outlook as a NY based magazine editor. His words bring to mind some of Henry Miller’s commandments regarding a writer’s engagement and process of work. “Work on one thing at a time until finished. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time! When you can’t create you can work.” Since its initial stages in early 2000, Whitehot Magazine has expanded under his management to include numerous international cities with an extensive reach of writers capturing the ongoing events in the arts at their locations.
LSK: What motivated you to create a magazine? How did you conceive of starting Whitehot Magazine? Why did you call it Whitehot?
Noah Becker: In 2005, I had a vision that the art world would move from print magazines to online magazines. I was exactly right – and I changed art history and art publishing forever. All the writers who worked with me are part of this history and are also responsible for pushing it to its zenith and ascending to the heavens with me.
“Whitehot” was deliberately spelled with no space between the words. It was a conceptual piece in a way, which, to my surprise, became an actual art magazine. The name “Whitehot” was inspired by names like White Cube, White Columns or the song “White Light White Heat” by the Velvet Underground. Even Yoko Ono and the Beatles’ White Album came to mind…
LSK: What are your ambitions, or how do you see the magazine’s evolution moving towards a particular horizon in the field?
Noah Becker: William S. Burroughs said, “Time; a landing field.” That quote was instructive to me. It’s a matter of patience and staying the course. I have no ambitions; I’m already more successful than I dreamed I would be. If that sounds pretentious, I’m ok with that – it was not an easy path…
LSK: What would you envision your legacy, or would like it to be, in the arts within all your spheres of action as a magazine editor, writer, painter and musician?
Noah Becker: It depends on if an artist cares if their corpse gets attention after they die. I still can’t decide if I should care about post-death career options?
Becker is a Canadian artist that frequently travels between British Columbia and New York. He’s had numerous solo shows, including a set of retrospectives at MoMA. His remarks on his background and professional life experiences signal a Zen-like austerity with sparsity in outlook towards embellishment drawn towards raw facts and straight talk.
LSK: Your mother, Florence Becker, is an author and a potter. Can you describe her influence on your outlook on art-making and writing? How does her legacy move you?
Noah Becker: My mom is still alive, so I can’t talk about her legacy yet. But she’s taught me to stay positive. She’s also a calligrapher and home-schooled me. So she’s been hugely influential in my life…
LSK: How has the geographical transition from your sphere of life in British Columbia and to New York informed and influenced your creative process and work as a writer and magazine editor?
Noah Becker: They call that being “jet-set”, and that’s been a lot of my life. I’ve been flying back and forth between NYC and western Canada for years. Being on airplanes is an exciting experience. Having the natural beauty of British Columbia and the talent pool in NYC is a nice contrast. So many aspects of this jet-set kind of lifestyle have enriched me.
LSK: What have been your greatest joys and points of satisfaction creatively (with art and writing)? And on the flip side, what has been your most hard-hitting experiences or lessons as an artist, writer and editor? What are some of the most significant motivations that catalyze your work today and your aims?
Noah Becker: I don’t see all the definitions and labels in 2022. Everyone writes and creates art and publishes things. I’m doing a long-term monumental approach, a large scale project. Many are doing the same kind of thing in a smaller or private way.
LSK: How would you describe your experience with the therapeutic, meditative, transcendent and sublime in art as a factor in your creative journey?
Noah Becker: That all sounds too seductive to me. An artist can create all that seductive stuff for consumers but have an awful time doing it. You can have a nice time too, but if the end result is mediocre, then all that solipsism is a waste of time. Art should be more than making yourself all warm and fuzzy.
Becker’s multifaceted creative sphere of action as a musician, painter, writer and founding editor of an online contemporary art journal certainly would be the grounds for nightmarish multitasking troubles. A trouble shooter’s steely clear-sighted sense of direction is a purposeful compass. Becker effectively connected an international art writers network.
Henry Miller’s other commandments come to mind. “Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.”
LSK: You are an accomplished saxophonist playing with prominent musicians and venues. You contributed to the soundtrack for the documentary on New York’s art scene, New York Now. How did you transition to encompass a creative scope of life as a musician, artist, writer and editor of an art magazine? Have you found yourself torn between work identities as one gained more notice?
Noah Becker: There are no categories; those are just words. I do things at a professional level or not at all – I’m not a hobby artist. There’s no transition to or from anything. I’m creative, and my creativity is my work. It’s all my work.
LSK: Were you to make a selection of paintings that marked important moments in your life or your favorites, which would you choose? Can you elaborate on the significance of each one for you?
Noah Becker: I don’t have a lot of specific comments on my paintings. I just kind of keep making them. If I overthink, I stop making paintings.
LSK: Concerning NFTs, you’ve embraced them much like you did the digital framework for your art publication. What would you say makes NFTs not just a current reality but a potentially significant development in the arts? What insights have you gained from working with NFTs? How would you advise artists from your vantage point about working with NFTs?
Noah Becker: The NFT market is like the art world – it’s affected by the market and world events. I’m seeing NFT artists making art with or without sales. There’s a great authentic creative NFT community there. I encourage everyone to join. NFT is part of the Web 3 future, but there’s much more happening. It’s good to explore and meet new art friends along the way.
To conclude, Henry Miller noted a series of lighter commandments: “Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.” This lighter reality is noticeable in Becker’s openness to new movements in the arts, embracing a digital publishing platform in its day and NFTs today, and in his earnest effort to connect with other creatives, decision-makers and actors at countless art events over decades.