Artzines + Journals

Artist Richard Taylor writes for a-n, the Artists Information Company, an online arts magazine which offers alternative insights into the visual arts. Here he talks about the rise of the artzine - an experiment in writing, publishing, production and collaboration.

Conceptual Art
Contemporary Art

Photo: Ross Fraser MacLean.

Artzines and journals are used by artists and curators who experiment with publishing to complete or supplement their visual and written practice. Often created at low-cost and in small runs, they maintain a printed element of publishing that compliments the online representation and display of artists’ work. Often economic, democratic, conceptual and/or physically explorative, artzines have become more and more popular in visual art.

Yuk’n’Yum was started by a collective of artists and producers who up until earlier this year made black and white quarterly zines which featured artists’ work selected from an open call. My involvement came about whilst collaborating with artist Ross Hamilton Frew in 2011. We presented elements of our work within the publication, to explore our collaboration which provided access to a new audience beyond the gallery and leading to a two-person show later that year.

Courtesy the artists and Glasgow International
Photo: Clark James. Courtesy the artists and Glasgow International

Artzines and journals are frequently a collaborative endeavour, are often openly produced and can come hand-in-hand with a live element. They are sold at selected publishers and independent bookshops. Aye-Aye Books at the CCA in Glasgow is a good place to find artist publications, as is the Fruitmarket Gallery Bookshop in Edinburgh. Publishers like Good Press at MONO- also in Glasgow- tour zines and self-published volumes to artist book fairs, provide space for publishing-related exhibitions and sell a selection of artzines. Earlier in 2014 Good Press attended the LA Art Bookfair, representing Scottish artzines (some of these are mentioned below) plus editions from artists such as Ciara Phillips.

Artist-led Transmission Gallery in Glasgow have a resource room that houses their exhibition archive, they also have a collection of artzines and journals including Uncle Chop Chop which is edited by Beagles and Ramsay. Open by appointment, this resource room is often used for live events related to publishing projects.

Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow as included in The Burning Sand, Volume 3.
© The Artist Image credit: Motto. Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow as included in The Burning Sand, Volume 3.

Artists are often invited to contribute to an artzine or publication. The artist group Victor & Hester collaborate with artists in numerous ways to produce performances and exhibitions with a publishing element, whilst building an online archive on their website. The Burning Sand is a bi-annual prose, poetry and art magazine edited by writer, curator and lecturer Sarah Lowndes. The launch of Vol.III, which featured readings and performances from contributors such as Luke Fowler, took place at The Poetry Club during Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (GI) 2014. From reading Lowndes’ other published works and from seeing her curated projects, it is interesting to see how the artzine model has been used to bridge a gap between the two – providing space for artists with varied practices to occupy the same curated and distributable space.

Image credit: Sophie Dyer
Image credit: Sophie Dyer

Another example is Gnommero, a series of thematic pamphlets edited by Sarah Tripp and myself. Gnommero provides printed space for artists and writers to respond to Italo Calvino’s 1998 publication Six Memos for the Next Millennium. With up to twenty contributors, and with the final volume to be published in 2015, the pamphlet style publication is also an economic experiment. Every contributor pays their share of its production cost and in turn gets the same amount of copies from a run of 1000, to distribute as they see fit. Like the Burning Sand, more recent volumes have launched with readings, performances and screenings by contributors.

Courtesy the artists and Glasgow International
Photo Marion Vasquez. Courtesy the artists and Glasgow International

‘Live publishing’ is a common mode of artzine production. It allows the process of publication to be durational and inclusive. An example of this is Prawn’s Pee, an artwork and art newspaper (Prawn’s Pee being an anagram of newspaper) by artists and writers Rob Churm and Rebecca Wilcox, which was produced for GI 2012. Using screen-printing and an old (and laborious) printing press up to 200 copies were produced daily at The Old Hairdressers (Glasgow’s old Daily Record building). Its content, largely dependent on the artists who contributed, was left open-ended and each copy was launched at 6pm every day for two weeks.  

As part of their GENERATION exhibition Studio Jamming – with Graham Eatough & Graham Fagen, Full Eye, GANGHUT and Henry VIII’s Wives – Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design presented a 12-Hour Studio Jamming Symposium. With speakers including David Harding and Francis McKee, the day also featured readings by writers published in an online anthology after a Group Critical Writing Residency. Edinburgh-based writer of critical theory and fiction Maria Fusco edited the anthology, with a mind to bring to the fore new art writing in Scotland – something many artzines and artists journals have done for some time.

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