Zines are appealing because of their tangibility – from the process of DIY creation to the final product held in the hand, zines allow for meaning to be communicated in unexpected, often serendipitous ways. Cataloguing the National Library’s newly acquired Nick Henderson Zine Collection affords the opportunity to fill an entire working day with the anticipation that zine fans must feel when a new package arrives from your choice zine-distro – holding in your hand a unique item created by a complete stranger, yet feeling the connection of common human experience as you read another’s thoughts, musical tastes, opinions and experiences. If it comes with a plastic knife or toy soldier sticky-taped to the front (a bit of a no-no as far as the NLA Conservators are concerned!), then it just makes the whole experience totally rad!
In an age where communication is increasingly performed via social media platforms, personal communication via tactile media – like a zine, or the good old-fashioned hand-written letter – offers an opportunity to connect in a more personal manner with the writer or recipient. If you head to the NLA’s new Handwritten: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Treasures exhibition (opening the 26th of November), you will see many good examples of this – tell me that staring at Michelangelo’s handwriting centuries later isn’t an amazing experience!!
Many of us love receiving a handwritten letter, postcard or care package in the mail. Zinesters will be familiar with ‘Mail Art’, a genre with its roots in early 1960’s art movements (particularly Fluxus). These artists collaborated via mail networks, adhering to philosophies very close to that of zine makers – an inclusive, alternative, do-it-yourself culture of individual expression and collaboration. Mail art could include anything from an illustrated letter, an altered postcard, to a mix tape. I was pretty happy when I came across a nondescript beige envelope whilst cataloguing the Henderson collection – for it contained a zine fun pack, the result of a collaborative mail art project coordinated by the Papercut Collective!
A fusion of mail art and zine-making traditions, the Post No Bills Fun Pack by the Papercut Collective is a limited edition collection of letters, zines and things in between. Zinesters Emma and Anwyn coordinated the Post No Bills Project between 2005 and 2006. Soon, up to 60 creative types were exchanging letters, zines, mix tapes and other creations through the postal system. The Post No Bills Fun Pack was the culmination of the project, where 19 individual mail art creations were selected and replicated for inclusion in a limited edition set of 150 and presented at the 2006 This is Not Art Festival in Newcastle.
Contributors to the project included Ned, Emma, xLukex, Jon Tjhia, Alice K., Simon Gray, Anwyn, Anna Poletti, Mitchell, Marlaina Read, Vanessa Berry, Suzie Hoban, Louise, Jordie Kerr, Luke S., Leigh Rigozzi, Brigitte Junga, Oliver Hunter and Tom Civil.
Here are some highlights:
Particularly useful is the Chinese talisman inspired ‘Postal Talisman’ by Anna Poletti, which promises to deter junk mail and other postally-transmitted bad news. Perhaps it will ward off my next phone bill?