FEATURED MEMBER – Alonso Dominguez

Posted on February 7, 2011




Alonso Dominguez is the co-founder and creative director of sugarhigh, the email magazine covering the latest cultural developments in Berlin, from film and music to food, fashion and events.


Having studied Theater at New York University, he is also a professional tap dancer. In a life spent roaming all over the world, he has previously worked with ASMALLWORLD, The Shanghai Daily and Giorgio Armani.


Q.  You’ve lived and worked all over the world. What is it about Berlin that has led you to settle for now?
A.  Berlin is half-way done. It makes you feel like you’re part of the building of the city—the forging of its contemporary story. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but that’s how it makes me feel. In other places—London, Paris, New York—I felt like I was keeping somebody else’s seat warm, completely replaceable. I like Berlin because it’s a real city (as opposed to the fantasy that places like Shanghai can feel like), yet it doesn’t take itself very seriously. Berlin, because of its troubled past, is allowed to misbehave. It’s like a teenage kid who had an abusive, troubled childhood and is acting out. Everyone lets it be because, you know, “it had a rough past.” That’s a rare freedom to have as a city—I wanted to be part of that.  

Q.  How did sugarhigh get started?
A.  It started with us trying to make sense of all the culture that was being produced in the city. We wanted to participate somehow and document it, but the city was (is) extremely disorganized, so it was hard to make sense of it all. We wanted to offer a solution to this problem, so we created sugarhigh. Not necessarily a guide, but more of a cultural road map, trying to document the progress of the city’s contemporary culture—art, fashion, film, music, food, etc.—one day at a time.

Q.  What does a typical day at sugarhigh consist of?
A.  We’re usually on pretty tight deadlines—being a daily and all—so things get hectic often. We start early. We all get in touch with each other in the morning to put the final touches on the day’s issue. The email is published at around 11am, so we start working around 8.30 or so. After that, it’s really anyone’s guess for the day.

We have a small team and we’re all in separate places in the city. We have an office, but people work from wherever they prefer. Everyone’s constantly roaming around town in meetings, or visiting projects, interviewing people, etc.  I usually spend the days writing, editing, at photo shoots, and such. Currently, my day is pretty full  because of all the fashion and art coverage we’re doing at the moment (we have two daily satellite mags that come out for five days or so during special events, like Fashion Week). And chasing stories. Today I spent half the day trying to orchestrate a shoot/interview with James Franco, who will be in town to open a solo art show in two weeks, for instance.

Peter (my biz partner) takes care of the business side, so he’s on the phone all day with clients, partners, etc. We’re usually never next to each other and mostly see each other at meetings. We use our time spent traveling from place to place to catch up on each other’s work, or edit text on a blackberry, etc. The day goes by pretty fast. Then it’s off to an event or some sort of dinner/drinks meeting and then off to bed. Unless it’s Wednesday—on Wednesday’s we go out.

Q.  What’s the most exciting thing you’ve come across in Berlin and covered in sugarhigh?
A.  After 300 issues of sugarhigh, it’s hard to tell a particular favorite, really. My favorites are the quirky ones. We once wrote about this convenience store which had all its merchandise replaced overnight with Japanese convenience store products and opened for business as if nothing had happened. I also loved the story we did on the screening of porn musicals, or the one we did on a concert series, where you could buy tickets to go listen to 50 or so different people giving amateur piano concerts in their living rooms. They once let us design/vandalize a window display at Galeries Lafayette for Art Forum—that was fun, too.

Q.  What are the top 3 things visitors to Berlin should be sure to check out?
A.  The Boros Collection – one of the best collections of contemporary art, staged in a former Nazi bunker-turned 90s sex club-turned private residence/gallery. Tours are only on Saturdays and they’re sold out for months, but it’s well worth the advance planning.

There’s also a travel antique shop below the Friedrichstr. S-Bahn station. They sell the most amazing vintage travel items—suitcases, hat boxes, gloves, canes. It’s the best souvenir shop.

Check out Nico’s grave. Warhol’s muse, whose buried somewhere in the middle of the Grunewald forest. It’s like a poor-man’s Père-Lachaise.

I also love the imago camera. A one-to-one ratio automatic photo booth. You go in, pose and out comes a head to toe picture of yourself. The camera’s said to be haunted, so the results of the pictures are eerie and beautiful.

Q.  Do you have any plans to expand sugarhigh?
A.  Well, at the moment we’re focusing on Berlin. We want to eventually hit the rest of Europe, but right now we have a lot of offers from other companies and brands to produce content and marketing material from Berlin, and publish and release them at an international level. So far, our hands are full with that.

Q.  You have said that you consider yourself “an Other.” What do you mean by this?
A.  It’s a term that comes from not being a proper foreigner, nor a proper local. Not an expat, nor a native. It’s something different. “Others” are people who live in a certain place and lead a somewhat local life, however have a different background. It mostly also applies to people who can “pass” as being from different places. People who other people assume they’re one of them, until it is revealed differently. I have a mild infatuation with the social dynamics of race, nationality and cultural assumptions for both, so I think about this a lot. Perhaps too much.

I’m from Mexico City, but most people would never guess that—because of the way I look and sounds and their normal assumptions about people from where I’m from. It’s interesting to see what people think of you before and after they find out where you’re from. I’m a big supporter of my country and I’m constantly trying to understand what our identity is or should be outside of Mexico. Being an “other” and passing—if only for a brief conversation; it’s not about tricking anyone—allows for a little insight into what people think of certain cultures in private. It’s fascinating.

Q.  What do you hope to achieve in the coming year?
A.  This year is all about growth for us. We have a solid, but modest number of daily readers and we’re trying to push those numbers up, whilst maintaining our niche-publication edge. It’s a delicate line to walk, so it takes time to navigate. We also want to get an office pet.

Q.  How do you hope Pelime can help with this?
A.  Pelime is a great place to get inspired, I think. Being local and locally-focused, it’s hard to see outside Berlin. Virtual places, like Pelime, allow a little insight to the non-mainstream overall wave of creative impulses floating around the world.



                                                           All images by: www.maximeballesteros.com

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