As the reality of living in a pandemic rages on, artists all over the world are resorting to self-publishing as an alternative way to express themselves and connect while self-isolating. It makes a lot of sense, zines and small publications are relatively easy to make, don’t require a lot of space (or at least not as much as paintings would), and are a lot of fun to make. Any material you may find lying around has zine-potential if you have a knack for it.
I’ve been in contact with my fellow artists and makers, and I noticed a recent spike in zine-making. A new and especially popular type is the “quaranzine,” which takes the form of personal journals, chronicling day-to-day life in quarantine. Zines can function as archives documenting mundane daily life experiences, and turning them into markers of the moment, a process of building collective memories. Some artists have also used them to proliferate messages and realizations that they’ve arrived at during this time. Take, for example, The New Coronavirus Abecedary, a mini-zine of COVID-19 terminology, a chronicle of our time that cements some of the vocabulary that we have all been recently made familiar with. Honolulu-based Kyla Smith created the Stay Home Diary, which utilizes the comic strip format and includes lyrics from Mitski’s “Nobody.”
On the other end of the spectrum, some quaranzines have been functioning as replacements and resistance to institutional lack of information. These mutual aid zines are proliferating information in regards to basic rights for marginalized communities and essential workers. Some examples are digital zines that have been circulating and are meant to be printed and used. Artist-activists Yessi and N created a zine that walks you through sewing your own fabric masks for example. While others remind us of proper hygiene and what good social distancing practices are. Some digital zines are accepting submissions on a rolling base, such as The Quarantine Zine and the blog #dearquarantinediary. You can also submit your work to “Zines in Dark Times,” which plans to host an exhibition of such zines in the near future.
Zines are a form of personal and collective art-making. Other artists, specifically comic artists, have been making their version of comic zines in nine digital frames and submitting them to RESCUE PARTY!, a new Instagram platform started by the Brooklyn-famous Desert Island comic book store. @rescueparty2020 is accepting nine-panel comics themed around “utopian futures.” Some of these try to envision a future where social distancing is the norm, while others take us completely elsewhere, to new worlds. The wit and talent of these nine frame comics is so refreshing, and they get posted on a daily basis, so there’s plenty of content to enjoy. Here are some of my favorites:
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Artists and creatives have always pioneered the art of making the most out of every situation, and now is no different. After all, self-publishing makes the most sense in times of isolation, and there is nothing more beautiful than creating things with your own hands sometimes.
Photo via Caroline Kulczycky