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Anita's Digest

Can a zine change the world?

The zine concept was popularised in the 1930s by science fiction fandoms. The name was taken from fanzine, which is short for fan magazine. Making and distributing zines allowed people to create networks, collaborating on writing and artworks around similar passions. Since then, zines have spread to cover nearly every topic, and remain a form of alternative, underground publishing. 

Originally a passion project, it makes perfect sense that the zine would expand to cover topics related to activism and social change. Engaging those eager about changing the world, zines can materialise voices and hopes.

Artizine

What makes zines so exciting is their endless potential. They are not limited by form, texture, style, or method. A zine can be a collection of music notes, revolutionary recipes, or photos of the mundane.

A zine tends to be different from other publications like magazines or newspapers, as they are not widely circulated. Zines are often not for profit or sold as limited. This means that they frequently cover a very specific or current theme, which fits into their emphasis on drawing attention to a problem that creators hope can be solved. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stefan-szczelkun/133047531 Stefan Szczelkun, 2006

For example, Refugium is a zine documenting the different experiences of immigrants living in the USA. Self-published by Brazilian filmmaker and designer Ares Maia, she spoke to five people about their experiences, after asking people to share their stories on Instagram. Maia hoped to bring attention to attitudes that need to change, such as judging immigrants based on names, issues of low pay, and discrimination based on background. Rather than being voyeuristic and speaking for others’ experiences, the zine gave pen and paper to the individuals themselves.

Zines emphasise a DIY culture of making and distributing as a community experience. Zine-making is a great way to deconstruct what is accepted as normal, turning newspaper words or left-over magazine images into messages about discrimination towards LGBTQ+ groups or racist policies. This can help activism become a creative process. For example, craftivism (using practices of craft as activism) has become very popular and allows people with different interests and talents to participate in social movements.

Artizine

Of course, there is always a risk of romanticising the ‘true potential’ of a zine, to glamorise the idea of something made by hand. In fact, zines that have blossomed digitally like Polyester zine interrogate the problems as well as the benefits attached to online space. The zine aims to “bridge the gap of URL cyberfeminism with the IRL world”. Publications like this can give opportunities to creatives who do a lot of their work online, such as graphic designers, photographers, and writers.

The practice of zine-making creates a supportive space, where critical discussion and subversive ideas can thrive. Ioana Simion, the founder of Artizine, hosts collaborative, non-hierarchical zine-making workshops which have continued online over lockdown. “I believe zines can showcase unheard voices and narratives which are in desperate need of attention but most of all care and nurture.” In her zine-making workshops, Ioana says that “we always explore and link our work to sustainability and the effort to reduce or repurpose materials.”

Artizine

Ioana explains, “Zines are also incredibly accessible which makes them the perfect tool in activism – if anyone can make a zine then anyone can take part in changing and educating other people.” So, zines may be compact and infrequent, but their scope for social change is endless and far-reaching.

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Anita is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. She loves scribbling poems, writing articles about society and culture and drinking endless amounts of coffee!

Have you seen our latest Assemblage zine? We worked collaboratively to produce a multidisciplinary zine on the theme of reconnection…You can check it out here:

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Projects

‘Setting up a magazine from scratch’ with Bulb Magazine

22 October 2020

Kat Chojnacka is the creative director, editor, and founder of Bulb magazine. Founded in February 2020, the main goals of the magazine are to gather various artworks made by young creatives, to build a community where aspiring artists can showcase their work, and to create magazines full of art that feels fresh and relevant.

In this meeting, we were lucky enough to hear from Kat about the concept behind Bulb, how the name came about, and the failures and successes she’s experienced along the way.

On why she decided to start Bulb Mag:

“In January we had like a series of networking events organised by our university. And what amazed me is that I actually got to professionally meet people from other courses at my university. And it was kind of like, the first chance to do so in university with our tutors included. I just felt like I was missing out before on the full university experience, because I feel like, as an Art University, we should collaborate a lot and have some sort of platforms to share our work and motivate one another. So I wanted to help build that community. And I was just thinking about what I could do to, you know, help that. And because of my latest interest in InDesign, I thought maybe a magazine is the way to do it.”

On the name ‘Bulb’:

“The initial idea was to name it in a way that it would evoke feelings of freshness. So, at first, I wanted to name it ‘fresh’ or ‘raw.’ But those names were already taken by popular magazines. So I couldn’t settle on that. So I was literally using like a random word generator and just refreshing it all the time to see what names popped up. And there were a lot of that I kind of liked, for example ‘kettle’ ‘milk’, or ‘flesh.’ But they were all taken. I was just checking everything and everything was taken. So the actual name, the name ‘Bulb,’ is not my original idea. Basically I was telling my friend, my flatmate Veronica, how I was struggling with the name and she was like, ‘let’s look around the room, maybe we’ll find something interesting.’ And then she was like, ‘why not Bulb?’ And I was like, I kind of like it. So I settled on ‘Bulb.’ So basically, if you know, the symbolism of bulb, it’s supposed to be intention, or ideas. So I feel like it really gives away that fresh, creative mindset, in a way. And it’s short and catchy, which I also wanted it to be. So yeah, for me, it’s perfect.”

On the main goals of Bulb Magazine:

“The main goals of Bulb are to build a community of young artists, just young creatives wanting to share their work, and to promote them in a way, but also to motivate them. So initially, it was supposed to be for students of the Leeds Arts University, but now it’s more about just young creators in general. I didn’t feel like I should limit anyone and also I actually didn’t know at first that it might get popular some time. And so actually now my friends from Poland are submitting as well. But yeah, to be honest, one of the goals was also to motivate myself as well because I was struggling with motivation to produce more work. And I know that a lot of people from my course, and not only my course, had a difficult time as well, especially in quarantine. So it was, you know, it was just supposed to get us going and keep us on track.”

On failure and success:

“For the first official issue of Bulb I made an open call poster for submissions to the magazine, but I had to redo it, because for the first deadline, I didn’t get any submissions, like any at all. And once again, I was really heartbroken because of that. But I figured that maybe it was just it was just bad timing. So I redid the poster with different dates after university submissions. And then I got a lot of submissions. I mean, by a lot I mean, around 15. It doesn’t seem like that much. But for me, it’s quite a lot. And yeah, I went through three stages, basically. So at the beginning, because of the number of submissions, I was very motivated, and had really high hopes. And then I felt pressure, because there’s so many submissions. And I just felt the need to do it perfectly. And at the same time, it kind of motivated me as well. So at the end, I kind of felt fulfilment, because it’s so much longer than the previous ones. So I really feel like I did everything I could to make your work. And also I’ve created a website alongside, which I didn’t initially intend to do. But then I thought, why not try? Why not give it a go and just create a website?”

Want to find out more? Why not check out Bulb’s website or give Bulb a follow on Instagram.

By Tascha von Uexkull