When DIY reigned
Back in the late seventies and into the eighties there existed the gritty, garage style, grass roots fanzine. A declaration and repository of the decades Zeitgeist. This cult wonder would once again reemerge, with the Riot grrrl scene, in the nineties (as the next wave of feminists and activists found their voices) re baptized simply as zine. The edgy style is still used by glossies and marketing teams when they need to express abrasiveness, or an unabashed punk feel. Interestingly, during the pandemic, Instagram has played home to an ever growing modern day Zine creating community.
The original fanzines were characterized by subversion, freedom of thought and a DIY ethos. No carefully curated precious pages, rather a rip/tear and paste collage style, emphasizing chaos and deconstruction both visually and with the printed word. Their form and content shunned all standard (status quo) periodicals and glossy magazines or scrupulously edited newspapers. They had no advertisements and could be penned in one go during a flow of creativity.
Anti establishment meant sex, politics, art, literature, music, fashion, drugs, trailblazers and more could be found between casually folded sheets of paper with an almost childlike visual quality married to avant garde, serious and taboo commentary. In my opinion it was this raw, non fussy (quasi stream of consciousness) approach to their creation and the freely expressed views and opinions unhindered by editors and censors that brought them cult status. The almost slapdash hurried feel of the creation underscoring the desire to say what needed to be said without wasting any time. Very radical.
Part and parcel of the music scene (especially punk) they were distributed in clubs and underground venues or subways and tacked on public poles and placards at a time when legitimacy through a million likes or followers wasn’t yet a driving force.
When Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie came out and changed the lives of pre and pubescent girls (and not only) in 2011, I recognized its zine appeal in the diary like format, collaged pages, discussions of social issues and feminist voice. And although far from cut and paste in the ad-hoc sense, modern day magazines that began as experimental magazine, zine or counterculture magazine and have kept their core (albeit experienced glossies today) and ooze uber cool provocation are: Toiletpaper which was founded in 2010 to explore visual messaging only, Dazed which was started in 1992 as an alternative magazine, and i-D that originally come out in 1980 as a stapled and typewritten fanzine.