Other Worlds: An alternative space for zine makers and zine lovers alike
May 19th 2017
Nicky Minus, Nicky Minus, 2016
- Nicky Minus :: Canvas Interview
Listen back to the Canvas: Art & Ideas interview with Nicky Minus.
“Zines are any type of small published, small publication… most people think of them as a paper folded in half with staples down the middle… but it’s just anything that’s not mass produced or put out by a big publisher…” — says Nicky Minus on Canvas, FBi.
It’s hard to pin-point when exactly zine culture began and what it is. The word ‘zine’ comes from ‘fanzine’ in the 1930s, when people published their own little stories and distributed them through the mail. Alan Ginsberg and co distributed mimeographs (the dinosauric photocopier) in the 1950s. 70s punk bands distributed zines to fans about music, feminism and anti-Thatcher sentiment. In the 90s, zines boomed and became a really important medium to express everyday personal crises. You could even go all the way back to the start of the printing press. Where influential figures, like Thomas Paine, took the powers of production into his own hands and handed out ‘Common Sense’ (1776) — a political pamphlet that inspired the rebels and led to the American Revolution. It seems, therefore, that all you have to do is write, publish and distribute.
It’s no wonder, then, that Other World Zine Fair decided to boycott the MCA Zine Fair in 2014; since Transfield quietly sponsored the MCA whilst also operating service contracts for detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
“Zine fairs are meant to be non-corporate events… they were born out of DIY ethics”, says Nicky.
Many disagreed, however, including the then-Communications Minister Malcom Turnbull. “Sheer vicious ingratitude…” were the words he used to describe to the nine artists who boycotted the 19th Biennale of Sydney because of financial ties to Transfield. Why boycott the organisation who is “contractually obligated” to operate service contracts for detention centres when you could just boycott “the Government” who orchestrates the policy, suggested Carly Gordyn, a researcher on Australian asylum seeker policy, on SBS. Some argued that, since Transfield has ties to public transport, will these nine artists stop getting on trains and buses too? All legitimate responses. However, the only difference is, we can create our own alternative spaces for art. It’s a little more difficult to create a new train line, as an artist.
Other Worlds Zine Fair not only boycotts, it creates. It creates a new alternative space for zine makers and zine lovers alike — which doesn’t rely on the enforced misery of others. Of course, three years on, Transfield are no longer corporate members to the MCA. Well, not officially. The now-Managing Director of Transfield, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, stepped down from being the Chair of the Biennale in 2014, but the Belgiorno-Nettis name is still plaque’d on the front of the recently built MCA foyer as you walk in. It’s unclear whether the family still donates privately to the MCA. When asked to comment, the MCA confirmed that “Transfield are no longer corporate members” but I didn’t hear back about the Beligiorno-Nettis donation status. And, yes, three years on, detention centres still exist, unfortunately… still operated by Transfield. Yes, it’s true, boycotts don’t always work… Or, at least, they don’t work immediately. They take time. Every year, as zine culture grows, the conversation grows; and more and more people decide, for themselves, where they want to put their dollar.
Other Worlds Zine Fair 2016, Photo: Hon Boey
Since Tumblr has died, there hasn’t been many online “distros”, online review websites or regular offline shops for selling zines in Sydney. This is why Nicky believes: “A zine fair is really important”. Melbourne zine makers at the Sticky Zine Fair reportedly made up to $1000 each, selling zines for $3 each. DIY zine culture appears to be on the rise and alternative spaces are necessary.