Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Change of title for Shape & Situate zine

Thanks to very useful conversation with artist Meredith Stern, the subtitle of 'Shape & Situate' zine will be changed as of the next issue (#6) to hopefully clarify the scope and meaning of the project.

The zine will now be called, ‘Shape & Situate: Posters of Inspirational Women in Europe’.

This change in terminology has been made to reduce any misunderstandings of the project, or of my former use of the term ‘European’. I wish to distance the project from any connection to the understanding of ‘European’ as an ethnicity or identity. My use of the term ‘European’ has always been a geographical one, but I understand that it may not have been read as that by all who have viewed the project, and I do not wish to perpetuate any misunderstandings that this is a racist project.

My use of the term 'European' in this project comes from an understanding that Europe is made up of extremely multi-cultural societies, and that Europe includes a wide diversity of voices, cultures and ethnicities.

I was not using 'European' as a short hand for white, or using the term 'European' as a way to erase the ethnicity/race of the subjects in the zine.
With this project, the term 'European' has always been used in a geographical sense (without, hopefully succumbing to any forms of Nationalism) rather than ethnicity; celebrating the women that live (or have lived) in this continent surrounding me.

It is not my intention whatsoever to eliminate or silence the voices of women of colour from this project.  Women of colour have been instrumental to feminisms in Europe, and I believe it is important that projects such as Shape & Situate recognize the importance of all women, across all ethnicities, classes, dis/abilities, ages, and beyond.

The term 'European' that I have ascribed to this project has a meaning of 'people who live in Europe', as opposed to 'people from white heritage'.
By writing this post, I am hoping to blatantly clarify this.

The zine has focussed on European women as a way to document women in our locales and communities who are omitted from a lot of mainstream history. With this project Ihe poster-makers have managed to capture posters from various corners of Europe; for example Belgian, Swedish, Romanian, Norweigan women (etc etc) who I have never personally seen documented in social history art projects previously (as often the history of radical women is kept in localised knowledge banks, which I have been lucky enough to tap into with this project (with the help of the poster makers), and illuminated many darkened corners of knowledge on inspirational women from across Europe).
This was the intent behind making the project about European women solely.

I was influenced in many ways by projects such as 'Celebrate Peoples History' and 'Inspired Agitators' (amongst other social history art projects), but wanted to create a version of these projects that meant more to me, as somebody from Europe, who was regularly seeing and hearing more of the important social history from the USA/Canada/The Americas than from my own (geographical) communites and societies whose history I knew was there, yet in many ways has so-far been undiscovered or undocumented in global social history art in many ways.

Women of colour are an important part of this history. I have no intention of creating any ethnic or racial boundaries on this project, just geographical ones (for the reasons noted above).

I'm gutted that after 5 issues of the zine people may have all this time thought that I was creating a zine focussed on white heritage/white ethnicity, when my intentions were anything but;. I'm hoping a change in the title may clarify this.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

zines i'm loving right now


Zine recommendations


Disclaimer – yes, these zines are both created by friends of mine, and so yes, that’s initailly how they came into my hands. However, I’m writing about them here, not just because they’re created by friends, but because reading them has struck such a chord with me & I want to put my (jumbled and quite inarticulate) thoughts about them down on a page in case it may inspire anybody else to pick up a copy (they're both well worth your time!).

They are: 'A Man Called Uncle Tim', and 'Poor Lass #3: Family'

The zines are unrelated, but a big thing that struck me about them both is the strong messages they carry about documenting family as a form of social-history. That our lives and experiences, and those of our families, are a rich source of living history that deserves to be remembered, researched, and documented.

And how what we know about our families, what we are told about our families, and our experiences of family, and the stories that they hold, often do shape and situate us.
These two zines are in turn inquisitive (TMCUT) and exploratory (PL3); seeking to know/understand (TMCUT), and seeking to share/document/situate (within class structures) (PL3).


(N.B. I’m talking non-chosen family here (though the principles could apply to all permutations of family). I also accept and realise that there is a sense of privilege in being able to talk to, connect with, have a relationship with, and know your family, and also in the fact that the zine writers have family to write about in the first place.
I’m also aware that many people activly work hard to not be tied to their past legacies and family traits, violence and mistakes that are transmitted to us through the unspoken & overarching family narratives. History that they don’t want to repeat out loud, or repeat in themselves. As Annah Anti-Palindrome has written, ‘While the patterns we learn [through family] may define us, we are also defined by our processes of unpacking, analyzing and defying those legacies as well. [I] consciously resist participating in the destructive patterns I’ve learned over time.)



On to the zines…





‘The Man Called Uncle Tim’ (volume 1), by Lindsay Draws (2014) (More info here: http://andsomeplyers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-man-called-uncle-tim-1.html) 
Described by Lindsay as: ‘A series of zines about my uncle who died in 1995 and who I never really knew. In collaboration with members of my family, I try to understand how he lived and loved in a polyamorous queer Quaker intentional community in rural Ohio.
Volume 1: Half comic book; half zine. Features oral history with my Grandma and a brief introduction to Quakerism in the US. 32 pages, two colour (blue and black) riso printed throughout with over 30 original illustrations.
Documenting family history in the way that Lindsay has is *fascinating*. It’s an incredible example of seeking out and documenting our social and political history, as shown in the work she has put in to gathering oral histories from her, and uncle Tim’s, family members in order to know more about the life of her Uncle whose life she had no real/deep knowledge of until after he died.

Oh, and you’ve gotta see this one: the artwork/cartoons/illustrations, the double riso coloured printing, it’s all so well exectued and looks bloody amazing, adding even more to the enlightening, educational, and fascinating stories that Lindsay has captured within the zine.

I’m thrilled that Lindsay is doing this project, and so excited to get to see the second volume of the zine when it’s finished, as damn if I don’t want to know more about Uncle Tim’s story!  (and not from a noseyness point of view – this doesn’t read like a zine full of sensationalised, “juicy” personal info to nosey around and gawp at; I’m genuinley interested in the fascinating stories that are intertwined in the gentle narrative, as told by various members of Lindsay’s family.)

The thing is, as a backstory to the zine, but without revealing too much, the history shared in the zine (and that Lindsay has personally gathered) is about unknown, unspoken of, previously ‘invisible’ narratives that weren’t  freely discussed (for a whole host of legitimate, [and perhaps unlegitimate] reasons) within Lindsay’s close family. Lindsay is documenting life-stories, histories and truths that would have otherwise have gone unknown or undiscussed. There’s a huge power in that, and a great sense of responsibility.

At the same time she’s also letting readers in on the fascinating and inspiring life of Uncle Tim (and in part too, her amazing Grandma Jessie, whose uplifting words form a large part of this first volume. As Lindsay says, ‘Without divulging too much of the content, this is a celebration of my Grandma's spirit and attitude. Unusual for parents of her generation, and frankly even now, she was remarkably at ease with the life my uncle lived.’).

I guess what I’m saying is that a zine like Lindsay’s feels really important, and I want people to pick up a copy not just to soak in the beauty of Lindsay’s art, and to get involved in her discovery of Uncle Tim, but also to think about it in terms of social history, and the potential for documenting our own lives and those connected to us, since nobody else will do it for us.

And also, how, (for those who it’s safe and possible for), seeking out, and  being inquisitive and thoughtful about personal histories can be a great source of empowering a sense of how we are shaped and situated. As somebody without grandparents myself, it’d be ace to see more work/zines/art made by people (where it’s possible) going and speaking to their grandmas, (or even anybody of a generation that has come before us) and hear/see the formative history of family and family circumstances, and discover/analyse the stories we’re told, as well as those that aren't always immediately visible or talked about or known, before it's too late.


'Poor Lass #3. Family’, edited by Em and Seleena (2014) (More info here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/PoorLassZine/info)


Poor Lass is a collective zine made up of submissions by working class women on certain themes It’s a precious collection of personal narratives.

The need and idea behind the zine was to create a space for working class women to speak their own truths, and have their voices heard. As one of the editors has said to me recently, ‘I think we all just got sick of people painting our picture for us, it's like “nah mate that's not how it is!”’

Issue #3 collects personal thoughts, discussion, stories, and words on Family.

There’s one contribution in this issue of the zine that particularly stuck out for me, that by Seleena.

The discussion and description of her family makeup, her background, and her current interations with her family makes for really interesting, and engaging reading. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s full of inersecting stories set largely in the North of England that read like an amazing capturing of local, social, and familial history that is important to voice and get captured on a page before it’s lost to the mists of time; or before it’s co-opted and mis-represented by the trend for ‘gritty’ working class mainstream (media) documentation that more often than not miss the point entirely, and end up omitting and silencing people’s truths and realities further.

She captures the everydayness of life and family ties, family history, and special stories. But moreso, for me, the submission stands out as it explores (without perhaps ever setting out to do so, but more incidentally and innately) how she has come to be who she is due to those around (and/or no longer, or less frequently, around) her. It’s about what it is to be here now, knowing what you know, feeling what you feel, doing what you do, and being who you are with a sense of all that has got you to that point (for better or for worse).

I felt really giddy reading about Seleena’s family and how she fits into it all, and her feelings about it all. I’d love her to write a huge solo zine all about her experiences of  family, and the ways that it’s perhaps shaped and situated her brilliant self.