Another bumper crop of print creations this time around, and as there's
lots of small publications it seems logical to review everything in size
order, biggest first, leaving the little ones for last. Next issue I'm
planning a whole column of free publications, all contributions and suggestions
of publications to include will be gratefully received.
Found notes and letters have an enduring appeal and have often appeared
in zines and one-off collections previously, Found Magazine is the first
regular magazine devoted entirely to them. It's a winning formula,
Found Magazine fills a big 112 pages with love letters, nasty notes, shopping
lists, sketches, school essays, photos, blackmail demands, notes left
under windscreen wipers and even a 'Curtsy' notice from the
San Francisco Hell's Angels. Material of this kind speaks for itself
and doesn't need any explanation or comments. Excellent as it is,
Found Magazine is let down by an annoyingly messy layout, (some kind of
anti-computer statement?), and far too many plugs for the editor's
websites and other projects. Nonetheless, I'm glad Found Magazine
is around, and with an active readership sending in contributions it should
continue for a good while. After receiving a squashed frog found on the
25th floor stairs of a tower block, they politely ask readers not to send
any more dead animals.
Extrapool, Nijmegen in the east of Holland is a unique autonomously run
centre that houses a print shop and hosts film shows, exhibitions and
performances. The print shop operates stencil printers, ancient Roneo
and Gestetner duplicators and their modern day descendent, the digital
stencil printer. Looking like photocopiers from the outside, digital stencil
printers contain cylindrical drums of ink, around which stencils are automatically
wrapped. These machines are intended to print in a single colour only,
but the Extrapool printers have pushed them to the limit and somehow manage
to print in full colour which has a unique vibrant look and sophisticated
yet raw-edged feel. Half-Wit #2 is Extrapool's house magazine, a
riotous mix of graphics, comics, artwork and photos from 42 of the diverse
artists/musicians/performers who have worked/exhibited/performed at the
venue. Half-Wit is also a type of Dutch bread.
There's hardly any comics this time around, so I'd better squeeze
in Johnny Ryan's Angry Youth Comix which with issue 4 has mutated
into 'Hot Headed Cyborg Ass Kicker' in a pathetic and transparent
attempt to attract comic fanboys. Inside it's just as sick-smart
and reprehensible as ever, probably even more so with this issue's
big name collaboration with Peter Bagge - 'Hipler'. Adolph's
back on the scene, he's totally awesome and just wants to be loved,
with the help of his Hollywood agent, Hitler reinvents himself for 2002,
hits the Talk Show circuit, becomes a Teenybopper Idol and lands a co-starring
acting role in ET 2, before the pressures of fame get to him and he reverts
back to old habits... It's clear why 'Hipler' is a collaboration,
if you're going to produce such a gross-out-fest you'd better
have someone to share the blame with. In a perfect world Angry Youth Comix
would be on every news agent's shelves alongside Matt Groening's
(imaginary) Sullen Teen Magazine.
Kevin Lyons' book Natural Born: the graphic history of Reggae, Ska,
Rocksteady and Soul 1960-69, comes in a 7 inch single sleeve. The book
graphically explores and celebrates the early days of Jamaican music,
the roots of Reggae, Ska and Rocksteady in this period were complex and
interwoven, it would be impossible to have a single comprehensive diagram
illustrating all the influences and cross-fertilisation. Lyons doesn't
attempt this, instead he gives us an assortment of carefully hand lettered
family trees, of artists, labels, studios, producers, DJs and sound systems,
together with collections of record company logos, label artwork and portraits
of legendary original rockers - Duke Reid, Sir Coxsone and Prince Buster.
Natural Born had me skanking round the living room to the wonderful Club
Ska 67 and Intensified LPs.
French Silkscreen publishers Le Dernier Cri have gone into hyperdrive,
publishing 16 new books in 9 months, I was tempted to devote this column
entirely to their books, maybe all the fish soup they eat in Marseille
acts as magic potion? Most interesting to comics fans is Charles Burns'
Close Your Eyes - a book of copied drawings. While he was waiting in
the badly lit hallway during his daughter's piano lessons, Burns
tried reading and sketching, but with the sound of 'Mary had a little
Lamb' coming through the door for the fiftieth time found it hard
to concentrate, so he hit on the solution of taking a drawing and copying
it in the one hour time slot. His source material is classic horror and
romance comics and his peer cartoonists' (Crumb, Clowes, Doucet and
Panter) original drawings are shown next to Burns' distinctive smooth
incised versions. Each of the original comic book images is given the
Charles Burns workover, emerging more sinister and grotesque.
When he's not busy txting late night radio talk shows, Dave the Chimp
finds time to abuse the office photocopier and slap together an issue
of Switch On Your Brain. It's a good old fashioned wake-up-and-do-something-zine.
Contents: Steal From Work, Make your own zine & website, Mess with
the Swoosh, Reclaim the streets and walls with skateboards and spraycans,
Go Barefoot, Sticker designs to photocopy, there's even a spray painted
cover. Maybe you've heard all this before, but still it's good
to be reminded, and there's a whole generation out there who haven't,
but might just become tomorrow's culture jammers and meme breeders,
creating the next wave of zines & comics. "Why don't you
switch off your Television/Playstation/Mobile/DVD/Computer and go and
do something more interesting instead?"
Having just spent a whole afternoon painstakingly cleaning up photographs
and removing shadows in Photoshop, Andrew Lanyon's The Shadow Shop
makes me wonder why I bothered. THE SHADOW SHOP is a whimsical, poetic
attempt to trace the dimly remembered story of Vera Rowley's Shadow
Shop which was open for just three days during an overcast spell sometime
in 1938. The Shadow Shop sold a full range of shadows from simple paper
ones that you had to stand on to bespoke models, made of silk and attached
to the ankles with elegant leather straps. The Shadow Shop has illustrated
diagrams, photographs and tipped-in colour plates of elaborate mechanical
contraptions with levers and rollers. One demonstrates a man's shadow
sliding upstairs, another shows a person banging their head against a
wall, causing their shadow to drop to the ground. My informant tells me
that the machines pictured are genuine, the rest of The Shadow Shop is
for you to decide.
Tom Trusky's Tortillas: A glow-in-the-dark book of miracles, takes
as its starting point the phenomena familiar to Fortean Times readers
of religious symbols miraculously appearing in everyday groceries - Jesus'
face on a Corn Tortilla or Allah's name in a slice of aubergine.
Tortillas contains 6 printed 'Tortillas' when they're heated
up/exposed to light and then viewed in darkness Trusky's personal
icons miraculously appear, including Marilyn, Elvis and the almighty $.
Tortillas comes with 2 sachets of Taco Sauce glued inside - do you
prefer your mysteriously appearing icons with mild or extra hot sauce?
Tortillas, also incorporates images of Aztec Gods, reminding us that for
the Aztecs corn was the source of all life on earth and that in the Aztec
creation myth the first humans were made from corn meal by the Gods who
then breathed life into them. You don't quite get the same associations
when you buy a packet of 'Wraps' from the supermarket.
For the last 10 years Canadian Designer/Book artist Ian Phillips (a.k.a.
Pas De Chance) collected Lost Pet Posters from around the world and compiled
them in his zine Snacks. Snacks came with pet food biscuits and dog registration
tags glued to the cover and was continually updated with new posters added
as they were sent in by readers. Lost is a compendium of the Lost Pet
Posters in Snacks, an instance of a zine being picked up and 'overgrounded'
by a major publisher. Lost doesn't suffer from this process and benefits
from the larger size and increased page count. Simultaneously sad and
hopeful, Lost illustrates the large number of pets that go missing or
get stolen, shows how much their owners care and the lengths they go to - putting
up posters around their neighbourhoods and offering rewards for the return
of beloved pets. What part do Lost Pet Poster collectors play in this
process, are they reducing the chances of pets being reunited with their
owners by removing posters for their own selfish pleasure? Wow, I managed
to review Lost without mentioning Tracey Emin's Lost Cat Posters...
The Caravan Gallery postcards take the instantly recognisable format of
a holiday postcard with 4 different views of a holiday town and the town's
name in the centre, and replace the picturesque scenes and local landmarks
with equally familiar yet less celebrated scenes of urban life - tanning
salons, traffic wardens, portaloos, 'humourously' named businesses,
boarded up shops, backs of statues, those massive stuffed animals given
as fairground prizes, wonky handwritten signs, wheelie bins and rancid
canal towpaths. With simple captions ('Signs of Scotland, Glasgow';
'A Shoppers Paradise, Around Norwich'; 'Glimpses of Ipswich';
'Lovely Liverpool') these postcards which could be from any
town in the UK need no further explanation. They should be on sale at
every souvenir shop and news agents in the towns featured. As soon as
I saw them in the bookartbookshop I bought all 26 postcards in the series.
Unlike Martin Parr's dull, and inaccurately titled 'Boring Postcards'
books, The Caravan Gallery's ever-growing series of postcards (there's
over 50 now) genuinely celebrate and record the mundane, commonplace aspects
of Blair's Britain. Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale have travelled
with their digital camera and the Caravan Gallery itself to Liverpool,
Ipswich, Norwich, Brighton, Glasgow, and there's plans for The Caravan
Gallery to appear in a variety of locations throughout the UK in 2003.
Their recent residency at the Liverpool Biennial, produced 2 postcards
branching out in new directions - a purely conceptual 'River Mersey'
card featuring 4 views of murky grey water and a saucy VPL/Visible Panty
Lines postcard, focusing on g-strings visible through thin white summer
Mail for Funtastic United Nations , is a pocket sized Mail Art Kit put
together by veteran mail-artist Vittore Baroni and his conspirator Piermario
Ciani. The snazzily designed folder contains 22 postcards, 4 sheets of
stamps, 3 booklets and a rubber-stamp. Themed around imaginary countries
with their own languages, currencies and postal systems, Mail 4 f.u.n.
embodies the collaborative spirit of the Postal Art Network - each
of the 23 contributors from Italy, Germany, Japan and the USA financed
a share of the printing costs and received part of the edition when complete.
Mail 4 f.u.n. is proof that the mail-art network is still alive even if
it has taken a battering from upstart electronic communication methods.
Mail 4 f.u.n. also serves as an inspiring working model of how an ambitious
international project can be realised.
Pocko editions are a series of cute uniform books by artists, photographers
and illustrators. They're all 96 pages, postcard sized, budget priced
and come in batches of 5 titles, with a neat slipcase thrown in if you
buy the set. They've defined their own space which is somewhere between
artists' books, news-stand fashion/art glossies and Taschen books,
but hey at just £4.99 each it doesn't really matter where they
fit into the grand scheme of things. To do a proper review of Pocko books
I'd need all 5 books in front of me, but for some strange reason
they only sent one. Pocko's, Out of Science showcases Hiro Sugiyama's
paintings and collages which draw on the vernacular imagery of Mexican
and Indian educational posters and children's illustrated 'World
of Knowledge'-type encyclopedias - the genre of workman-like proficiently
painted illustration art. From this source material Sugiyama creates graphically
rich, Jim Shaw-esque curious paintings, which always have a discordant
element to them. It's a great image book which can be dipped into
repeatedly, but c'mon Pocko, how about titles for the paintings or
more information on Sugiyama's publishing company, which apparently
distributes a free newspaper in Tokyo on the 23rd of each month, which
is payday in Japan?
Getting smaller, and cheaper we come to Neomu #4. If you guillotined 3
cm off the top of a Pocko book and used the chopped-off bits to make more
pages you'd eventually get an 11cm square 160 page book. Then invite
80 designers and illustrators to contribute a monochrome 2 page spread,
and print it all in a rainbow of colours graduating from glossy neon pink
at the start to a matt dull purple at the end of the book and you've
got Neomu. You've invited lots of contributors, from Australia and
Singapore so it's not a case of work from 'all the usual suspects'
(well it might be if you're Australian or Singaporean). Neomu is
delectable top grade eye candy, hard-to-find and costs £1 / US$
/ HK$10 / ¥100 / EURO 1 depending on where you live - Neomu is
cheap in any language.
Yasushi Cho's More Books About the Transmission and Food is an instant
collection of 4 colourful teeny tiny books packaged in a hanging plastic
strip with pockets for each book - like sweets in a Japanese ¥100
shop. Each of the 4 hand sewn books contains intricately collaged and
rearranged images from magazines, food packaging and photo booth portraits.
Please Bury Your Finds So Others Can Discover Them by Matt Pattinson,
measures in at just 4cm square. It's a collection of 28 succinct
pictograms of modern stereotypes, undersea creatures and interesting sexual
positions. Economical and precise almost to the point of abstraction,
there's still a couple that I haven't figured out yet, and in
true image virus style, if you look carefully these designs can be spotted
stickered onto lampposts and screened on t-shirts.
The winner of this issue's prize for the smallest book, measuring
a minuscule 1 x 7cm, is Tracey Bush's The Thames pH Book. Using readily
manufactured books of litmus paper, each page of The Thames pH Book has
been dipped in water collected from sites along the River Thames. The
book takes us on a journey upriver from Purfleet to Kew, accompanying
the Environment Agency's weekly River Run, sampling water at 18 locations.
Each page of this labour intensive, site specific book has the location
and pH value of the water sample rubber-stamped on it. Thrill as pH values
soar to a whopping great 7.78 and then dip down to a miserable 7.39. As
I flicked through The Thames pH Book I found myself secretly hoping for
an off the scale reading caused by polluted water, can you imagine the
excitement of a pH reading of 9.13?
FOUND MAGAZINE. 3455 Charing Cross Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108-1911, U.S.A.
Available in Tower Records if you're lucky enough TO find a branch
that's still open...
HALF-WIT, available from Disinfotainment.
ANGRY YOUTH COMIX Fantagraphics Books, available from all good comic shops
NATURAL BORN, available from Artomatic, 13-14 Great Sutton St., London,
CLOSE YOUR EYES,
available from Disinfotainment
SWITCH ON YOUR BRAIN,
171 Corfield Street, London, E2 ODN
THE SHADOW SHOP, available from bookartbookshop
TORTILLAS: A glow-in-the-dark book of miracles, Tom Trusky, Painted Smiles
Press, P.O.Box 6414, Boise, ID 83707, USA
LOST, Chronicle books.
The Caravan Gallery, 77B Lucknow Street, Portsmouth, PO1 1PT
Posctards available from; Zwemmers/CCA, Glasgow; The Lighthouse, Glasgow;
Fruitmarket, Edinburgh; Beyond Words, Edinburgh; bookartbookshop, London.
MAIL 4 f.u.n. Vittore Baroni,via C Battisti 339, 55049, Viareggio, Italy
POCKO books, available from Diesel clothes shops worldwide
PLEASE BURY YOUR FINDS SO OTHERS CAN DISCOVER THEM, email@example.com
More Books about the Transmission and Food, available from Disinfotainment
THE THAMES pH BOOK, available from bookartbookshop, 17 Pitfield Street,
London, N1 6HB
Send information on free publications for review in Variant issue 17 to:
Disinfotainment, P.O.Box 664, London, E3 4QR