How our zines evolved into art books

How our zines evolved into art books

‘I THINK YOU should sew them.’

‘Why? They’re fine.’

‘No, no. If you sew them, it’ll be more, what’s the word… Substantial.’

‘Substantial zines?’

‘Come on. These are more than just zines. You know that. The world of zines is full of stuff that looks like most of the stuff that’s also in the rest of the world of zines. What you’re making is different. It’s new. It’s kind of refreshing, actually. What is it, though?’

‘Are you asking me to talk about it? Like, put words on it?’

‘Yes.’

‘That is so!’

‘You have to. You have to be able to speak about your work intelligently.’

‘You sound like some art critic who would buy some bollix that someone typed up at the artist statement generator site 500letters.org. Which, by the way, is ridiculously funny. I tried to get in touch by email with the creator of that, to do a Q&A with us here in S P A C E, but nothing came back. Maybe too much fan mail comes in about that. It’s so on the nose, you know? It just points it out so clearly and with that really amazing tool that lets you click around and then it spits out your artist statement, since, of course, artists don’t write they do art, and whatever. Man. The whole art world is so stuck up its own ass.’

Art world? When did you start caring about the art world?’

‘Ever since people came over and talked to me about what I’m doing here at this artist residency thing. And asked me what my art is about. And what art I like. And stuff.’

‘You do, though. Like art. And make it, too.’

‘I know! But the last time I felt this way was in New York. Also surrounded by art makers, and people who appreciate art. Or say they do. My opinion then was that they just need something to be all snooty about, and so, you know, they start in on art, and turn into the Art World bollix that gets in the way.’

‘Of?’

‘Of actually seeing! Of seeing the beauty! And artists want to frame the beauty!’

‘You know, not all artists—‘

‘Okay! Fine! Not all artists. But I’m not talking about hobbyists or people who are just trying to have a creative outlet, or people who are making art because they think it’s going to land them in front of some famous pot of people and they’ll be all validated and stuff. Because that’s not what art is!’

‘You think you know, then, what art is?’

‘I know what it is to me!’

‘What?’

‘That’s not a thing to share in public! Because if you start sharing around about the things that most matter to you, those things get… sloppier. I don’t know. They get… messed up. They lose the spark of that thing I love the most: freshness, surprise. The unexpected.”

‘Waffly. You have to show your work sometime!’

I do.’

‘That’s not what I mean. Show the process.’

‘Why? So you can feel like it’s cool and you’re getting a piece of the story? So that I make lifestyle blog pictures? No. I tried that and I don’t like the way that felt. I prefer just making the pieces. And then, sharing those. Even if it’s just like, my mom who downloads them.’

‘I think more people than your mom download your books and stuff, DK.’

‘Well, a few more.’

‘But you want… to be more… known.’

*exasperated* ‘You don’t understand. Art gets better… oh, no. I’m going to talk about art? Okay, fine, well, you got me started. Here it is. Art gets better when you share it in parts, and you see how people respond to it, and it is not user testing that I am talking about, it’s sharing the experience of watching a thing coming into the world. Like standing by when a baby’s being born, maybe, a little bit like that, and witnessing something cool happening. Seeds germinating. Remember in science classes when you put seeds into the wet paper and they started sprouting, just like that? Wasn’t that like, the coolest thing, ever? I thought so. Potentiality is often depicted as a seed, but there’s way more to the seed than the thing itself. The feelings, the people, the environment, the arrangements of things, the music that’s playing when you’re making stuff, there’s so, so much. I’m playing jazz. I always play jazz when I’m in the throes of it. I’m in a good spot, today. Making photographs, for ‘Slow Moment.’ Today four came into crisp shape. You have to spend some time with a place to get to know it before you can take pictures of it. I’ve been here three weeks and the pictures finally look great. You know why? You have to get to know your subject, first, you have to… fall in love with it.’

‘…’

‘You do!’

‘I always talk about this and people who know, know. Photographers. Artists. All right, fine, not all artists are bullshitting. Some of them are really amazing. The reason is because they care. And they want their work to be better, and they’re working to improve the quality of the pieces and not getting carried away doing these silly things for the sake of resume-building. Am I making my point, clearly?’

‘Yes. But can we get back to the story, DK?’

‘What was the question, again?’

‘Do you want to be more… known?’

‘I don’t know. It’s not like people buy these things. Even if they do, are they my people? I like it when I can share my works with people directly because, then, you know, we’re having a conversation, and that’s the part I love. You get to see how people play with the magazines, the mini-books, that are like, more developed now than just the plain ol’ books or writings, that I used to do. I mean, typesetting them beautifully and printing them up and sharing them is nice, and all, but it’s really neat to see how people play with them, the secret pockets and hideaway stuff, and so on, and interactivity, which I love, and it’s neat to see them engage with these little books so that I can tweak them a little. Design, after all. I did that for so long I can’t help but want to continue it along in the new stuff, too. Making things better. A little less confusing. I guess writing and communicating are part of that journey. And all that. Watching, learning, changing, growing… evolving. Working with newspapers, in the newsroom, then designing things for people, layout, typography, paper. I love all this stuff. Playing with it. Rearrangements, bricolage. And shaping things in new ways based on how the environment and the people in places I go respond. Which is how, well, okay. You know, I think you might be right.’

‘Of course. I’m always right.’ *laughs*. ‘About what, though?’

‘Sewing them.’

On International Zine Day (21 July), DK are posting by mail a limited edition of hand-sewn zines from our hyperlocal creative nonfiction series, S P A C E. The A4 photozine is called ‘Slow Moment.’ A very limited edition piece, this one. Learn more here.

 

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