The Managing Editors of experimental arts magazine RealTime have announced that the magazine will cease regular publishing in 2018, focusing instead on completing its online archive and publicly celebrating its legacy of 25 years covering innovative Australian art.

“It’s been an extremely difficult and a very sad decision to make to draw the magazine to a close — to cease weekly publishing this year,” wrote Virginia Baxter and Keith Gallasch. “In 2018, the magazine’s 25th year, we will complete the archiving of the deeply personal, totally consuming project that the magazine has been for us,” they said. “It’ll be a year of reflection and celebration for RealTime‘s many contributors, readers and supporters and, we hope, provide an enduring legacy — a unique record of a period in which the arts have radically transformed.”

RealTime, Arts, Keith Gallasch, Virginia BaxterFrom the archive: RealTime staff 2004, Managing Editor Keith Gallasch, OnScreen Editor Dan Edwards, Associate Editor Gail Priest, Managing Editor Virginia Baxter. Photo © Heidrun Löhr

Founded in 1994, RealTime, which focused on experimentation in performance-live art, contemporary performance, adventurous theatre, dance, music, sound-photomedia, film, video, interactive media and hybrid arts, was distributed across Australia for for 21 years as a bi-monthly print magazine, and has been available online since 1996. The last print edition was published at the end of 2015 and since then RealTime has appeared exclusively online, launching a new website in May this year.

The decision by RealTime to discontinue regular publishing is yet another sign of the increasingly challenging environment faced by arts journalism. Earlier this year artists, theatre companies and arts organisations including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Musica Viva spoke out over cuts to arts coverage by Fairfax Media. Michael Shmith, opera critic for The Age, resigned in protest of shrinking space for arts coverage.

“This decision, made by the Board of Management of Open City and the Managing Editors and in close consultation with the Australia Council for the Arts, the association’s key funder since the magazine’s inception, was not an easy one,” RealTime explained in the announcement on its website. “But it was a necessary one. Despite considerable creative and technical effort – and achievement – in 2016-17, it was clear the operation would soon become unsustainable, a result of the widely felt negative impact of social media on advertising sales.”

The announcement of the end of RealTime’s regular publishing has been meet with sadness by the arts industry, with artists taking to Twitter to express their gratitude to Baxter and Gallasch for their contribution to the industry.

“I’m very sad to hear this news,” Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini tweeted. “Keith and Virginia have contributed enormously to the cultural life of Australia over the past 25 years. RealTime was always fascinating, provocative and utterly committed to integrity in everything that it did. Thank you Keith and Virginia.”

“Thank you Keith Gallasch and Virginia Baxter for the extraordinary contribution you’ve made to Australian arts and ideas over 25 years,” tweeted composer Liza Lim. “Very sad news to see this close but an incredible legacy that touches everyone in the field.”

In 2018 Baxter and Gallasch will complete the magazine’s online archive as well as issuing a number of special editions. They plan to commission historical overviews and conduct public forums surveying the changes to the arts over the period coinciding with RealTime’s coverage.

“The Open City Board, Keith and Virginia proudly welcome the opportunity to complete the RealTime project in 2018,” RealTime said in its announcement, “and look forward to engaging with artists, writers and supporters in our grand retrospective of 25 years of transformed and transformational art.”

“We’ve had a huge, loving response via email and socal media from readers artists and arts organisations saying they’ll deparately miss the magazine but celebrate its legacy,” Baxter and Gallasch told Limelight. “Which is how we feel, sad, but happy to be able to spend 2018 wrapping up the project so that the archive is an accessible, cogent legacy with commissioned overviews of individual artform developments and the overal thrust of the mid 90s to the present, an astonishing time. We’re looking forward to making sense of it ourselves! It’s rare to be able to reflect on anything these days, let alone the art of recent decades, often poorly documented in Australia, especially the art of innovators and outliers and the young and emerging.”