To Zine or not to Zine
To Zine or not to Zine
I've been hooked on zines for years. My first true zine-love is a gorgeous collection of illustrated stories about neighbourhood cats in my old suburb of Newtown in Wellington. Such a simple recipe: typewritten kitty vignettes; a small print-run; photocopied and stapled; and then traded at a craft market. “Neighbourhood Cats” has brought me so much joy that I would risk death and save it in the event of a fire. So, when I heard Alphabet City was launching a new monthly event all about zines, I high-fived my dog in happiness.
Zines are not an easy 'thing' to define. The more I tried to analyse and understand them as a medium, the more obscure they became. Last week, I had the joy of discussing the socio-political and cultural significance of zines with the founders of Alphabet City, Erin Fae and Moira Clunie. Sound deep? It is. And yet, also not. Because as much as zines can be a cultural and political tool, they are also a reminder of being for the sake of being. It has always been their ephemeral and immediate nature that I find most appealing.
Zines (pronounced zeens) range from publications that are the backbone of underground subcultural movements to a once-off burst of artistic expression. Moira put it this way: “Any rule you can think of to identify or define one, doesn't work!” At that point my inner monologue tripped over itself wondering how I could write an article on a subject I had no way of succinctly introducing to gather&hunt readers.
Then Moira saved me by quoting a helpful definition by a fellow zine librarian:
“A zine is anything someone self identifies as a zine."
I know that initially this definition may seem abstruse, but ponder the idea... It sums up everything zines are for: self expression, community, people, DIY, readers, and writers. Zines essentially collapse the distinction between readers and writers. Zines are the most accessible, affordable, readily available and inclusive self-publishing mediums I can think of. Yes, even more accessible than a blog in this day and age when even people's pets have blogs. That's a big statement and I'm prepared to back it up, but not in this story. Perhaps over a typewriter at the next Zine Salon event.
Zine distribution occurs primarily through trading, markets and gatherings like Auckland Zinefest. Zines have no financial or commercial imperative to their existence, hence their availability and shareability makes perfect sense. And because zines are not beholden to editors or the advertising dollar, the range of voices and stories they represent is immense.
The best thing I could do to zine-up, was hold one and read it. In fact, I had over 2300 choices of zines to read at Alphabet City's incredible library. And an hour later, I was well on my way to publishing a zine. I've made many in my time, but usually late at night alone in my room. It was much more fun to create something at the inaugural Zine Salon. This is the space where self-publishers can share ideas, get inspired, access resources and bring their zine projects to life. I was so involved in my zine-making that I was the last to leave. But before I did, I got to ask how Moira and Erin came to know so much about zines.
Moira was making zines before she knew that was the name for them. For over a decade, they have both been involved in zines, book arts and letterpress. And together they have created a community space where we can collaborate, share and sustain these art-forms. They spoke about how zine-making can be a solitary pursuit for many of us: they want to bring people together and see more ideas become self-published realities. This, thankfully, means no more lonely zine-making at 2am for me.
Zine-up: the time is now! Here are two things you can do during International Zine Month:
- Visit Alphabet City's zine library during their opening hours. They have “Neighbourhood Cats” volumes one and two in their library!
- Meet zinesters, trade zines, talk zines, read zines, make a zine, chat to a zine librarian and eat cake while you're at it. Auckland Zinefest and First Thursdays have teamed up to bring us DIY EDITION on August 2nd.
After all this wonderful zine immersion, join the supportive, creative community at the next Zine Salon event. If you can't wait that long to be amongst typewriters and appreciators of self-publishing, you can always swing by Alphabet City this Thursday for Auckland Letter Writing Club.
71 Mt Eden Road Eden Terrace
Thursday: 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Friday: 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Psst: In case you missed the link, the next zine salon is Thursday, 9 August 2012, 18:30 until 21:00.
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