About 10-12 years ago a friend of mine (who for now shall remain nameless, but lets call him Zane) used to make zines. Sometimes he made a single copy which had a few duplicates (by photocopy) and it was exceptionally low quality. They were folded pages cut in a certain way to allow for multiple pages of a smaller size and were taped together. Many of these zines were for a quick laugh and at first I ridiculed him very harshly about what I saw as the asinine nature of these zines.
Skip forward about 10 years and a friend of mine (not the same zine guy) told me that he was clearing through the house and saw one of the zines. Not just any of the zines, but the final one ever made Zane ever made. It was a swan song of zines in the sense that it was the best one he ever made but also consciously knowing it would be his last. It compiled many of the techniques and jokes and idioms of the previous zines but distilled into bottled lightning.
Zane used to do zines about the comedian Harry Hill, perhaps the real humour about it was that it evoked the low budget and DIY ethic that Harry Hill’s early comedy used to have. It was not an artistic statement to make this zine as he was just a teenager at the time and we would pass it around during French class and trying not to giggle and get caught with it. As it happens we did get caught with it a few times and the teacher was either impressed at the ingenuity of it or found it exceptionally funny that he simply gave it back to us.
When the ‘final issue’ of ‘Harry Hill Magazine’ was rediscovered, I felt as if it was a part of a collective memory among my friends. The zine was just scraps of paper taped together but the last edition contained newspaper cut outs. Cue to 2014.
Sometimes after I’ve done my ‘fundamentals’/pedagogical exercises in my piano practice or with the clarinet, I just play freely, I just think and play, or sometimes not think at all and follow a certain idea or feeling and see where it takes me. I kind of see it as a creativity, where I draw from things and make decisions about what allusions I’m making or which allusions I use too much (I focus too much on the mixolydian mode, for example).
As an exercise in improvisation, I sometimes just follow a hunch or instinct and see where it goes, to exercise creativity for its own sake if you will. I have recently taken an interest in notebooks (which I’ve written about recently) and the next progression of that was…Harry Hill Magazine?
Well…not Zane’s self-made publication, but the idea of making my own scrapbook from newspaper clippings or magazines or brochures and adverts. In an age where newspapers and magazines are so easily available in metropolitan London (Shortlist, Timeout, Evening Standard, Metro, Sport, Stylist…) and there are endless amounts of fliers and junk mail, I thought I would put them together somehow.
I could give the hack intellectualisation of how this is postmodern to cut things apart from modern culture and put it together in my own little way (bricolage, hyper-reality), but maybe I won’t. For me, it feels like the same intellectual practice that I do when I sit in front of my piano and do some improvising, or when I’m jamming with my friends.
When I look at newspapers I look to cut out things that say something about who we are as people in 2014. As people we are confused about whether we love celebrities, or whether we hate how much weight they’ve gained or whatever scandal they were recently in. We are confused about how we hate certain kinds of criminals and yet we love to hear stories about them to get riled up and angry. The Metro is only a few steps away from being 4Chan or Spacedicks (if you don’t know what spacedicks is, it’s not for you). We have stories about big scientific discoveries and at the back pages have horoscopes and adverts for culturally appropriate mystics.
I often feel like we do not say enough that the emperor has no clothes when it comes to our culture and fixations with the news today. I feel that the application of collage is a powerful way of expressing this, by hitting us on the head with a pillow, we transfix the things that we take for granted in our culture, physically cut them out and place them alongside the things we do not wish to acknowledge about ourselves.
There’s also a more mundane way in which I use collage. As well as juxtaposition and contradition, I put together stories and images of the same narratives so that they are emphasised and overblown, put to full volume so that its deafening to see all together. News stories such as House Prices, the disadvantages of women and ethnic minorities, I have a small yet growing selection of cutouts about trans* identity and gender nonconformity.
For me it is a bit of a craft hobby, especially because it helps me wind down and use my mind in a way I don’t normally do outside of sitting in front of a piano. I’ve started another scrapbook in honour of my friend Zane, I’ve begun to make my own zine from newspaper collage as both an art project and something for friends only. I’m surprised at myself at how much expression I have had through cutting things out of junk mail and outdated Metro issues.