Q+A: Dori, HocTok
HocTok is an online magazine reporting on art of all kinds: words, sounds, visual arts. They publish intimate interviews with poets, writers, composers, musicians, filmmakers, poets, and more. We sat down with Dori, one of the co-founders of HocTok, to talk about the publication.
Tell us about HocTok!
HocTok is an online magazine that’s part of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called VSW Arthouse. The idea behind it was to initiate as many collaborations as possible from people who are part of different scenes, but who have the same aim and who meet at the same point. We want to tell the stories of realities that we all are a part of and see where we can meet and understand each other better. It's better to see the world from different perspectives, and when you have these perspectives being shown and told in art form, it's easier for people to forget about what makes them different and realize that they have a lot more in common than it might appear at first sight. We are in collaboration and in contact with so many artists from different parts of the world and across the country, and we want to highlight all the great work that everyone is doing. I think it's very inspiring, and it also shows you how much good is happening in the world. If you just focus on the news or social media, it looks like the world is in a darker place; then when you get outside of it, turn down the volume, and see what's actually happening in every different community around the country and around the world, you get so much more hopeful about what the reality is and what the future has in store for us. There are so many people who are doing amazing work, and HocTok is a platform that amplifies their voices and their work.
When did you start HocTok?
We started in 2015. Originally, everyone who is a part of HocTok had access to a different part of the art world, although not everyone is an artist. The company was started by two women; I'm one of them. There's my co-founder, two guys, and another woman. We all came from different realms. Everyone had serious experience with the visual arts world or with music or with the literary world, so we wanted to see how we could do something we're all interested in. We were a group of friends— people who knew each other and who had a lot in common— and we just wanted to do something together because we thought it was worth it.
Do you have pitch/brainstorming sessions with each other?
Absolutely! We're all night-owls, and the weekends become more interesting when we have to discuss what's on the table for the upcoming publications and people or things that have attracted our attention. We publish a new feature twice a week. We're also considering new sections in addition to what we publish about the visual, sound, and written world. We're working towards a new section that is traveling around the country and presenting a picture of a certain city. We published something on Baltimore, and we contacted different places like a small café or a reporter who became a writer and then a composer. We're working with different people from other cities, and then we have other plans of things that we want to do. We want to spread our wings and be even more inclusive. I think that we're inclusive already, but we want to be more open to also include people who are not connected to the arts— to do something that is still relevant, fun, inspiring, and inviting to people from different fields of life.
Who is your main audience?
Our main audience is everyone! We don't want to turn anyone down. We don't say that we're this group of people and we're not that group of people. We hope that every person is interested to check us out and see what we do and maybe find something that they like. It doesn't mean that they will like everything; maybe some things they won't be interested in. But from the response that we've received so far, I think that we've attracted people that have different interests, and I’m hoping that will continue.
How do you engage with your readers?
We have the social media aspect; we're on Instagram and Twitter, but we also welcome direct contact. We have a form where people can contact us directly through our website, and we're open to their comments. People have given us suggestions and have sent us feedback like, oh, wow this is amazing and I know this artist who would be very interested or I shared this with my people on Facebook, and it's always awesome to see! And we're always glad to reply and say wow, that's cool; do it again; keep us on your favorites list, share us as much as you can!
Tell us about your process of curating the articles that go up on the site!
There's so much going on, so we look at everything that catches our attention and then we have a jam session of who will be the right person or the right type of work for any particular week. And there's always an underlying factor that helps us with our decision-making, but we don't care about making huge statements like this is why we're doing this. It's there, and hopefully it comes across without us having to say it. Everyone who is featured in our magazine is there because of the merit of their work; that's our main goal. We thought it was a little tiring to see people, organizations, and publications that always work on slogans. If you see that there is a deficiency in this realm then why don't you do something about that? And then we said let's forget about discussions on what needs to be done, let's do what we can, and hopefully, that will be the statement of who we are and what we stand for.
So the artists that you're featuring are from around the world? How do you get connected to them?
Yes, absolutely. Most of the time, we're the ones who reach out to people outside of the U.S. because we see someone who is super amazing and who does great work and we're like ah I wish I had to chance to see his work here in Brooklyn or I wish I could hear her perform in New York. I think when people hear "Brooklyn," everyone is like yeah, I want to be a part of that scene or I didn't get a chance to explore as much as I wanted to the last time I was in New York, so I want to be a part of Brooklyn even if it's only in the name or sharing my work online. But I think the online community is the best community. We don't have a paywall so everyone has access to what we do, and I think that's the best way to reach as many people as possible.
Who are your writers?
None of us put our names on the features, not because we're not proud of them or don't want to be associated with them; it's actually quite the opposite. We don't want it to be about who is presenting, who is writing the feature. It's more about the person who does the work. When we're in contact with the artist, there is a trust that is built, and that's why people are so open to sharing their stories and their thoughts and their works with us. For us, it's more about the artists themselves than the team of people who research, write, and present. We're ok with being the people in the background.
Is there anything you’ve published that you wish had come out differently?
I'm always checking back at different features that we've worked on and I'm like I'm so proud of this, this is so amazing, or this could have been done a little differently. But we don't want to go back and revise and change things that look like they could've been improved on. We let them be as they are because it just shows that we have evolved, and everyone makes mistakes and it's okay. You look back and at that moment in time you thought that was the best thing ever, and then you look back in two months and think hmm I don't know about this, but most of the time I'm pretty happy with what we do. What we concentrate on is making sure that the people we collaborate with are always satisfied with the end result, because ultimately these people are trusting you to present them in the right light and to present their messages the right way, so if they think that their work is being twisted or their message is being twisted to fit a certain agenda then that would be wrong. But we always build upon these relationships, and I think that's a big indicator of what we do and how well we do it.
Why did you choose to locate in DUMBO originally?
The DUMBO I knew six years ago wasn't a million-dollar-apartment DUMBO! And it was easy access. We got access to the space, and we said this is amazing, and it's easy to access from all kinds of places and is very scenic. You go out and you can go grab a coffee or just sit and stare at the skyline and realize, this is DUMBO. I'm a small part of this world, but maybe what I'm doing makes a difference.
What are your future plans and what do you envision for HocTok?
HocTok is just part of what we envision. Because we have access to so many artists, we're interested in putting on events here in DUMBO. We've done a couple of events, but not in DUMBO. We've had film screenings and readings and meet-the-composer type of things. We have access to so many amazing artists from around the country and around the world, and, as I said before, when everybody who is not in Brooklyn hears about Brooklyn, everyone wants to get a piece of the action and wants to be present. So that’s in the works, but we don't have the funds to rent spaces yet. I'm hoping that that will change; we're working hard, and I think that there are so many people who are working towards the same goal. The events part of our mission will hopefully be taking center stage in the upcoming weeks and months. It's not easy because there's always the need for more funding and more financial support, but I think that if we put our heads together and really put more effort into it then we'll achieve it. I just want to do something that will give more attention to who we work with because we've had such good reaction from the people that we work with so far. It feels like we're not as known in our own backyard and that just doesn't make sense. We really want to leave a mark. So we want to co-present and present. Because we're open to collaborating with different people and different institutions, I think it is doable, so that's what we will be focusing on: presenting events and presenting artists live. Another smaller thing that we want to do is publish sections of what we write so that there is the print format. It's not gonna be a magazine because the magazine is working fine as-is, but maybe a small booklet or a chapbook or something, a small publication. We have really talented graphic artists in-house, so why not make use of that as much as we can?
Where did the name HocTok come from?
"Ad hoc" and "talk." Like talk, but something more than just basic talk. And it's just a play on words and a funky way of writing "talk" because why not?
What's your favorite place in DUMBO?
Here [at One Girl Cookies]! Also, by the water— I think it's so cool, and I love going to the carousel and seeing all the brides [having their photos taken], especially when it's cold. I think they go through training to learn how to walk on heels in DUMBO! Anytime I see that I just think oh my god, you're amazing! Congrats, you made it! In DUMBO, you see people from all around the world, you hear all kinds of languages, and you see kids playing by the waterfront. It's fun! I'm proud of the fact that we're in DUMBO and hopefully, we can make a lasting impression and always mention that we started off and made our name in DUMBO!