Press Releases

CalArts Launches A New Literary Magazine: 'Sublevel'

CalArts Launches A New Literary Magazine: 'Sublevel'

Highlights include an homage to BUTT magazine by renowned critic Hilton Als, an “L.A. Letter” from curator and UC Irvine professor Litia Perta and a spirited dialogue between poets Solmaz Sharif and Rickey Laurentiis

Valencia, CA—February 1—Launching today, Sublevel is a new online literary magazine devoted to the nexus of literature, poetics, art, criticism, philosophy, culture, and politics. Based in the MFA Creative Writing Program at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Sublevel reflects the dynamism of contemporary Los Angeles as a hub of literature, art, and activism. The magazine will present original essays, dialogues, roundtables, and other features online. The first annual print component (SUBLEVEL B-sides) of the magazine premiers in April 2017.

Sublevel can be accessed online at

Named for CalArts’ graffiti covered basement, Sublevel is co-edited by director of CalArts’ MFA Creative Writing Program Maggie Nelson and faculty member Janice Lee. Nelson is a 2016 McArthur Fellowship recipient and Lee is Executive Editor of Entropy. A team of MFA Creative Writing students provide editorial assistance. 

Sublevel,” said Nelson, “fills a certain void in the literary world, along the lines of the same void our MFA program fills—we treat writing as an art among the other arts, and we are concerned with both aesthetics and politics. Our magazine reflects this orientation.”

The first issue of the magazine will explore the theme, "contagion" and the word's wide range of conceptual interpretations.  As outlined on Sublevel’s website: “contagion is most commonly associated with the spread of disease, poison, corruption, harmful practices or ideas, but its Latin root - con- (together) with + tangere (touch) - opens the term in a slightly different direction: co-touching, touching together. Thus: emotional contagion, behavioral contagion, financial contagion, sacred contagion, hysterical contagion, ‘contagion theory’ (the hypnotic effects of crowds), contagion of ideas, contagion of identity.”

Sublevel #1 includes: an homage to BUTT magazine by renowned critic Hilton Als; an “L.A. Letter” from curator and UC Irvine professor Litia Perta; a spirited dialogue between poets Solmaz Sharif and Rickey Laurentiis; a roundtable artist-scholar discussion among Candice Lin, Mel Y. Chen, and Jih-Fei Cheng; a timely piece written for Sublevel by writer Aisha Sabatini Sloan; an exhibition of an evanescent project in Wyoming by writer/video artist/scholar Sueyeun Juliette Lee; a Top Ten list from poet Simone White; and a selection of new writing under the rubric “The History of Touching,” chosen from our open submissions call, by Andrew F. Giles, Stephen Karl, Muriel Leung, Asiya Wadud, and Nicholas Wong.

Sublevel is produced in collaboration with the online magazine Entropy, and in conversation with East of Borneo, an online art magazine also housed at CalArts. For this year and next, Sublevel will appear as an online edition in February and a print edition in April. While the editorial staff may rotate, the full time MFA faculty will remain as an advisory board. They include Tisa Bryant, Brian Evenson, Douglas Kearney, Janet Sarbanes, Matias Viegener, Jon Wagner, and Christine Wertheim.

CalArts School of Critical Studies brings together internationally recognized writers, poets, scholars and thinkers working in both new and traditional forms across a wide variety of disciplines, extending from narrative fiction, performance and multimedia to cultural criticism and political theory. The school offers two graduate programs: the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program and the Master of Arts Aesthetics and Politics Program. In both programs, the expertise of Institute faculty is complemented with an extensive series of readings, lectures, workshops and longer-term residencies by a diverse range of visiting writers, theorists and artists.

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.