Last week I wrote a little about my thoughts regarding the street art scene in Melbourne. I posted it on facebook and was happy that some of you spent the time to read it, and excited to hear your expressed thoughts on the topic.
I’ll write more about the scene in the future as it's something I do think about often but writing constantly about a specific city’s scene can be pretty dull and risks getting repetitive in a “Old man yells at cloud” kind of way (especially when I’m no longer in that city).
Instead I thought I’d turn to my feelings towards Zines. I like zines. Most of you reading know what zines are, but for those who don’t, they can be summed up as DIY magazines, often made with a photocopier with roots spreading into the underground punk scene, science fiction scene, alternative comics scene and to pretty much anyone wanting to distribute their work in booklet format without dealing with the pressures of publishers, censorship and often, quality.
That mentioned lack of quality is endearing.
Magazines are sterile products. Anything that is deemed too risky is cut out to avoid damaging their sales. Interesting content that once existed in earlier editions (when the magazine was looking to build an audience), inevitably gets replaced with sponsorships and advertisements that masquerade as articles and interviews. Where magazines fall flat, zines excel. Zines are passion projects made by creatives in many cases with no formal education in communication. They speak directly to an audience with frequent spelling mistakes, confusing design choices and all other kinds of errors that would be swiftly spotted by editors, resulting in something that in all its imperfection feels intimate, almost like reading a diary. It's worth mentioning that while both generally have a financial transaction involved, zines tend to focus more on niche content with the price often barely covering printing costs; big magazines on the other hand print en masse and have employees and money on the line. They need to place the focus on revenue as it's their job as a business to do so.
It's the difference between someone who has a few chickens and sells their eggs locally vs a farmer who distributes eggs to supermarket chains.
This is my understanding of it all anyway.
My first zine that I made was in highschool (I think around year 11), I was spending a lot of time at Sticky Institute and Blender Studios, surrounding myself with artists. The school I was at had gone through a transitional period where the old Principal had left and the newer one (seemingly out of personal insecurity) wanted to make a big splash. Unfortunately the splash she made wasn’t a positive one and resulted in good teachers leaving and a drop in morale among the remaining teachers and students.
This was what my first zine was about. The whole thing was made in between fits of laughter as dumb ideas were sloppily thrown onto the paper. It was full of criticisms and anecdotes of some of the weird things that had been happening since she took over. When the zine was finished, about 10 or 15 copies were stocked at Sticky, a few more were taken to school where they were distributed anonymously. To my surprise the zines at sticky had sold out in a week or two. I couldn’t understand who would want to buy them but I was very grateful. I really wish I’d kept a copy of that zine for myself.
Since then I’ve been making zines habitually to document my travels, art and thoughts. They’re often pretty chaotic with some themes thrown in pretty loosely, but usually the result is a scrapbook of artworks, photos, sketches and notes.
One friend and fellow artist, Junky Projects, has a couple old copies of my early zines. I remember one time that we went through some of them and it felt like going through a time machine. It felt like the zines had stapled time and memory down onto a page. Looking at my own old zines gives me the means to revisit past experiences to see how far I’ve come and to also notice underlying themes that were flowing through my work even before I was aware of them. Looking into other people’s zines gives me a glimpse at other people’s time machines.
I’ve put in more of an effort to keep a copy of my old zines, but there are still holes in my collection.
In a time where attention spans are eroding and everything that gets put onto the internet is expected to last forever, having physical pages to flick though, private and separate to the digital space, feels deeply valuable to me. To have pages that were physically put together by the artist that made the whole thing is something very special.