Interview — Regine Ehleiter ‘Thanks For Sharing’

‘Thanks For Sharing’ Exhibition View

Thanks For Shar­ing’ — Exhib­i­tion View

What is an art zine? How does it dif­fer from an edit­or­i­al art magazine or a blog? And why do more and more artists inter­na­tion­ally seem to be inter­ested in this par­tic­u­lar pub­lish­ing format?”

In 2010 Regine Ehleit­er cur­ated the won­der­full ‘Thanks For Shar­ing’ (TFS) exhib­tion and sym­posi­um at the D21 Kun­straum. There­fore she invited zin­sters, artists, col­lect­ors, dis­trib­ut­ors and cur­at­ors to sub­mit their pub­lic­a­tions and to dis­cuss the “rising interest in zines, their pop­ular­ity among con­tem­por­ary artists, the reviv­al of DIY-cul­ture with its appeal­ingly easy imple­ment­a­tion of ideas and poten­tial for styl­ist­ic exper­i­ment­a­tion”. More than 300 zines from all over the world were shown in a spe­cially designed exhib­i­tion archi­tec­ture, developed by stu­dents of the Academy of Visu­al Arts Leipzig (Class for Sys­tem Design).
In Janu­ary 2011 the cata­logue pub­lished in occa­sion of the exhib­i­tion was launched at the mzin store in Leipzig and i thought it’s high time to inter­view Regine Ehleit­er…

What was your main interest to organ­ize an art zine exhib­i­tion?
It’s much to do with places I went to and people I met in 200809. My flat­mate in Lon­don at that time star­ted to make these weekly diary-like zines — beau­ti­ful, hand­made com­pil­a­tions of draw­ings and pho­to­graphs with fancy inserts, ten or fif­teen unique cop­ies. Many times, when I went to open­ings, I now noticed the zines that were on dis­play. That’s some­thing I had­n’t really been aware of in a gal­lery con­text before. So then, I star­ted to par­tic­u­larly look out for these small pub­lic­a­tions. Back in Leipzig, my former flat­mate con­tin­ued send­ing me her zines. And I just felt, this was some­thing I would like oth­ers to know and be part of, pos­sibly through an exhib­i­tion. And D21 Kun­straum, a non-profit art space I co-foun­ded back in 2006, seemed liked the per­fect ven­ue for this kind of show.

You star­ted an open call for the TFS exhib­i­tion. Did you cur­ate a selec­tion of all zines you received?

Yes and No. The open call con­tained sev­er­al cri­ter­ia that sub­mis­sions ought to meet in order to be accep­ted for the show. Firstly, I said, we are look­ing for »peri­od­ic­als« — pub­lished works that appear in a new edi­tion on a reg­u­lar sched­ule — as opposed to once-only pub­lished art books, cata­logues or, e.g. zines, made one the occa­sion of one par­tic­u­lar exhib­i­tion. Secondly, the zines had to be pub­lished in 2009 or 2010, as I wanted to focus on what kind of pub­lic­a­tions were out there at that time. Thirdly, I nar­rowed it down to »zines pro­duced by artists«, artist col­lect­ives or oth­er col­lab­or­at­ive pro­jects.
At the same time, there was no selec­tion made by me or a jury. I am very reluct­ant to the idea of a jury selec­tion. In my opin­ion, it con­tra­dicts the spir­it and DIY enthu­si­asm of the zine com­munity to ask a num­ber of experts of the loc­al art scene — say a graph­ic design pro­fess­or, a gal­ler­ist, an estab­lished artist and the cur­at­or of the loc­al kun­stver­ein — to make a selec­tion accord­ing to their par­tic­u­lar tastes.

‘Thanks for Sharing’ — Display Units

Thanks for Shar­ing’ — Dis­play Units

The way you exhib­it the zines, was it import­ant for you?
Yes, the dis­play was very import­ant. At almost all zine or book fairs, you usu­ally find these simple books-on-table arrange­ments. That’s fine, if you just want to have a look and in case you like a cer­tain zine, you can buy and read it at home. At THANKS FOR SHAR­ING! no zines were for sale, so I really wanted to cre­ate a more read­ing-friendly atmo­sphere, where vis­it­ors can sit down and take their time to read and browse.
So I asked stu­dents of the Academy of Visu­al Arts in Leipzig (Class for Sys­tem Design) to join in and devel­op the archi­tec­ture and the visu­al concept of the exhib­i­tion. Sandy Hof­mann, Ina Kwon, Fran­ziska Leiste and Hen­rik Ross­bander designed a flex­ible, mod­u­lar sys­tem of dis­play units, which could eas­ily be reor­gan­ised for dif­fer­ent exhib­i­tion-related events. It con­sisted of wooden tables, benches and stools of com­pat­ible sizes, which either had trays attached to them on the sides or a num­ber or slots for insert­ing the pub­lic­a­tions. Flex­ib­il­ity was cru­cial, as the sub­mis­sions we received for the exhib­i­tion (over 300) greatly differed in size and format.
All zines could be moved around freely in the exhib­i­tion and cir­cu­lated from one place to anoth­er. There­fore, the appear­ance of the show changed slightly every day. I remem­ber, how vis­it­ors often sat next to each oth­er, read­ing or talk­ing about a pub­lic­a­tion, giv­ing recom­mend­a­tions to oth­ers and passing on the zines they liked.

Thanks for Shar­ing’ — Cata­logue

Inside the TFS cata­logue you prin­ted some draw­ings of the fur­niture the stu­dents developed. How exactly did the archi­tec­ture and the visu­al concept of the exhib­i­tion work?
The vec­tor draw­ings that Hen­rik Ross­bander made for the cata­logue play with this famil­i­ar look of IKEA cata­logue designs, where every piece of fur­niture is stripped down to its basic parts and you get an idea, how to com­bine the indi­vidu­al com­pon­ents. I liked that for the exhib­i­tion archi­tec­ture the design­ers decided to work with used mater­i­als only: ply wood but for example also parts of a kids closet that was covered with lots of vin­tage stick­ers. This really gives it a spe­cial charme and cor­res­ponds well, I think, to the rad­ic­al sub­jectiv­ity and DIY aes­thet­ics of zines. (More info about this series of mod­ules called THINGS FOR SHAR­ING! is avail­able here). Apart from the fur­niture, the stu­dents from the Academy also designed all prin­ted mat­ter.

What happened with the art zines after the exhib­i­tion?

It was import­ant to me that they are fur­ther access­ible in Leipzig, so I donated the col­lec­tion to the arts lib­rary of Halle 14, a non-profit arts centre, situ­ated in the area of the former Leipzi­ger Cot­ton Spin­ning Mill, Leipzig’s main gal­lery dis­trict that attracts a lot of vis­it­ors. D21 Kun­straumm works closely togeth­er with Halle 14 and our aim is that the col­lec­tion will grow fur­ther. I am cur­rently work­ing on a fol­low-up zine pro­ject of THANKS FOR SHAR­ING!, sched­uled to start this sum­mer, that will allow for our col­lec­tion to travel to dif­fer­ent cit­ies and expand. First stop will be some­where in the Frank­furt area, prob­ably at Atelier Zukun­ft in Mainz. I’ll keep you pos­ted.

Why did you organ­ize a sym­posi­um with the exhib­i­tion?

Sev­er­al reas­ons. Partly, I just wanted to know more about the pub­lish­ing prac­tice of some of the guests, like Urs Lehni and Stefan Marx. But the sym­posi­um was also an attempt to bring togeth­er a num­ber of people to dis­cuss their under­stand­ing and defin­i­tion of terms as well as recent devel­op­ments in self-pub­lish­ing. I mean, even many of the people who sub­mit­ted an art zine for our exhib­i­tion described their prac­tice to us as mak­ing small »books«, »fan­zines« or »magazines« — few actu­ally used the term »art zine«.
The speak­ers I invited for the sym­posi­um each looked at zine mak­ing from a dif­fer­ent point of view. It star­ted with a talk on the his­tory of fan­zines (how the term emerged from the US-Amer­ic­an sci­ence fic­tion scene, the later rock music fan­zines and the whole Do-It-Your­self approach of punk). We looked at dis­tri­bu­tion, a Swiss cur­at­or elab­or­ated on the zine col­lec­tion of his museum, and so on. All of the talks are also avail­able online.

Thanks For Shar­ing’ — Sym­posi­um

In Janu­ary you pub­lished a cata­logue of the TFS exhib­i­tion. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
It basic­ally con­sists of two parts: A small book­let with texts (German/​English) and an A3-fol­ded insert with pic­tures. Both are prin­ted on a riso­graph. While the insert is more of a doc­u­ment­a­tion of the exhib­i­tion and all related events (work­shop, sym­posi­um, per­form­ance, zine-release etc.), it is dif­fer­ent with the book­let, where we tried to go bey­ond doc­u­ment­a­tion a little. The texts that you’ll find in the book­let are not mere tran­scripts of the talks held at the sym­posi­um, but I shortened and trans­formed them into inter­views.

Every inter­view starts with ten words in large green let­ters that cov­er the whole page. These are the words that appear most often in the inter­view, so you imme­di­ately get an impres­sion what the text is about.
Along­side to it, you’ll find images, some of which are illus­trat­ive of the text but for the most part they are free asso­ci­ations — thoughts and con­nec­tions that the design stu­dents from the Academy had and made while they were read­ing the inter­views. To give an example: One of these pic­tures is a Beach Boys album cov­er that came to mind for them, when Urs Lehni talks about the exhib­i­tion »Would­n’t it be nice« and on-site pub­lish­ing. Anoth­er of these asso­ci­at­ive images is a video still from a Simpsons epis­ode, in which Lisa uses an old hand press after Mr. Burns took con­trol of all media in Spring­field.

How do you think the self-pub­lish­ing phe­nomen­on will devel­op in the future?

I don’t know. There’s a pleth­ora of exhib­i­tions that focus on books and prin­ted mat­ter at the moment. The sheer num­ber of new zine fairs and col­lec­tions, new pub­lish­ers and book­shops is really impress­ive. I remem­ber, how Jan Wen­zel from Spect­or Books com­pared this boom in self-pub­lish­ing in his talk at our sym­posi­um to some kind of »super nova« — the extreme expan­sion of a sun shortly before its end. He recalled how people in the 1990s, at the very begin­ning of digit­al­isa­tion and the rise of the Inter­net, pre­dicted that this would be the end of print. Of course, print did­n’t die and I think it won’t.
It seems to me that what the Inter­net affected most is dis­tri­bu­tion: It has become so much easi­er to catch up on the work or latest issue of your favour­ite zine maker by fol­low­ing their face­book posts, through their web­sites, online shops or, say, the fancy new iPhone app that Nieves intro­duced lately. So, as for the »super nova effect«: I believe the boom in self-pub­lish­ing will con­tin­ue as long as people become more and more con­nec­ted and it is get­ting easi­er to find pre­cisely those ten or fif­teen poten­tial buy­ers some­where on the oth­er side of the world, who are inter­ested in your zine, your par­tic­u­lar style or wicked sense of humour.

Can you please give us a view inform­a­tion about you and your work at D21 Kun­straum?

I stud­ied Cul­tur­al Stud­ies, Journ­al­ism and His­tory of Art in Leipzig. This is also where we star­ted D21 Kun­straum back in 2006. It was at a time when the »New Leipzig School of Paint­ing« was omni­present and whenev­er I men­tioned that I live in Leipig to some­body on my travels, a short con­ver­sa­tion about Neo Rauch and the art mar­ket hype in paint­ing from Leipzig was almost inev­it­able. With D21 Kun­straum, how­ever, we set out to make inter­na­tion­al themed group shows with con­tem­por­ary artists who work in a vari­ety of media. D21 Kun­straum is not a gal­lery but a non-profit pro­ject room, run by a col­lect­ive of about ten people with very dif­fer­ent interests, mostly stu­dents, writers, cur­at­ors and some artists. Along­side the exhib­i­tion pro­gram, there are many events, espe­cially our exper­i­ment­al film series (organ­ized by Sarah Schipschack and Leif Magne Tan­gen).

Thank you for this inter­view!

You have the pos­sib­il­ity to read the cata­logue online and you can order your copy here. All talks of the sypo­si­um you’ll find here.


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