Review — ZUG #1 & #2

Reviews are important. As an informed opinion they offer guidance and arouse interest. In the era of the internet you often judge an artzine or artist book just by the pictures of a few spreads. It is hard to know what a publication contains and in most cases you buy it without detailed information, or you do not buy it at all. In the bigger cities, distros have tackled the problem and it is here, where you can browse (manually) through the different publications before you make your buying decision. Unfortunately, not every city has a distro and for this reason, has not only improved its selection of artzines introduced online, but did so on the grounds of reviews by Regine Ehleiter. Under Regine’s guidance, will update its selection regularly, including newcomers as well as  classics of the artzine scene.

Regine studied Cultural Studies, Journalism and History of Art at University of Leipzig, Germany. She has proven herself as a knowledgeable and passionate expert on artzines, when giving a lecture on the topic at the »I’ve Zine The Darkness« exhibition in Halle. Furthermore, Regine curated the »Thanks for Sharing« exhibition at D21 Kunstraum in Leipzig of which she is a founding member. She currently works as a curatorial assistant at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.

Please warmly welcome Regine to I am very happy to work with her… — Moritz

I’d like to start this new review section on by presenting a thoughtfully composed, bilingual zine that, in its inaugural issue, attends to the act of collecting. It is called Zug (Hungarian for “angle” or “nook”) and is edited and designed by Aaron Fabian. If his name doesn’t sound familiar, check their website. Innen is an independent publishing house from Budapest that Aaron Fabian has been running for more than five years now. Issue 1 of Zug came out in 2010, the second issue on “Obsession” followed last year.

Zug #1 (collecting) and Zug #2 (obsession) (Foto: Innen)

In a short essay “About the spirit of collecting” at the very beginning of Zug #1 the Hungarian curator József Mélyi points out that: “Although collections begin to take shape according to the collector’s ideas, they tend to gain complete control over the collector in the end.” By collecting we not only define who we want to be, but at the same time are defined by our collections. Or, in the words of Tyler Durden in Fight Club: “The things you own, end up owning you.”

If this made you worry that you might already own too many zines, let me quote András Bányai from his essay “Collected Thoughts on Collecting”, published later on in the issue. There he outlines the positive psychological function of collecting, stating that it “can serve to reinforce the ego and the development of identity because it gives us an opportunity to experience our own importance and individuality”. If you ask me, this sounds like a pretty good excuse to expand your collection.

Zug #1 — Pal Gerber: “Corner of a house secured to a natural rock with a double chain”, p. 12–13 (Foto: Motto)

In between these short essay texts, you’ll find a selection of photographs that the Hungarian artist Pál Gerber (*1956) collected since the late seventies. For example, there is an image of a motorbike with an armchair and coffee table. Next to that you’ll see a rotten banana together with the notice that it was “kept for three days in a bag”.

Pál Gerber: “About Collecting”, p. 14–15 (Foto: Motto)

These fancy, outlandish objects bring to mind the numerous things that the earliest art collectors, Renaissance sovereigns, like Rudolf II, King of Hungary, amassed in their cabinets of curiosities all over Europe.

An equally inspiring, yet very different collection presented in Zug is that of Benjamin Sommerhalder’s nine favourite book covers. The Swiss Publisher with a background in graphic design has been running Nieves since 2001. His selection ranges from the cover of a self-published zine by Misaki Kawai to that of a children’s book with drawings by renowned French-German illustrator Tomi Ungerer (*1931).

Zug #1 — “Benjamin Sommerhalder’s favourite book covers”, p. 20–21 (Foto: Motto)

In issue 2, Zug continues its journey along the driving forces of the human psyche. After “Collecting”, it is now the psychological connotations of “Obsession” that András Bányai approaches in his essay for Zug. Unlike in the first issue, the essay texts in Zug #2 are set in a very small typeface, spanning over almost the whole page.

Although a little hard to read, conceptually this design decision seems to underline the theme of the issue – “Obsession”. In its obscurity the text is reminiscent of the small scraggy handwriting of a restless character, propelled to write down the efflux of his genius before it is too late. Yet, what we actually get to read is more fun than that: In his one-page essay, Tamás Fehérvári describes “The rules of couch cheering”.

Zug #2 — Tamás Fehérvári: “The rules of couch cheering”, p. 12–13 (Foto: Regine)

Like the perfect topic for a Pecha Kucha Night, “The rules of couch cheering” includes a detailed description of things to consider, if you plan to have a great night at home with your friends, watching your favourite sports team on television: “15 minutes before kick off, take the cheering position and turn off your cell phone”, Fehérvári advises, or: “Get the dog out of the room before the game starts. Dogs don’t know the rule of football, meaning they never jump and bark at the right moments.”

The next article is dedicated to Czech artist Miroslav Tichý (1926–2011) who was obsessed with both photography and women. He made thousands of blurry portraits of young girls sun bathing or women following their daily routines. Despite his limited means (using self-made cameras fashioned out of old eyeglass lenses, duct tape, paper rolls and gum), Tichý succeeded in developing a distinctive and very intriguing artistic style. His sometimes stained and battered-looking photographs are framed by playful, decorative drawings.

Zug #2 — Miroslav Tichý: “5-2-187” and “5-10-92”, p. 18–19 (Foto: Regine)

One of my highlights in this issue was the work by Alexis Zavialoff who contributed four photographs from his Moscow series to second issue of Zug. Zavialoff is mostly known as the founder of Motto – a distribution company specialized in (maga)zines. Through his obsession with printed matter, the unresting photographer, who is half French and half Russian, has become something of a symbol for the expansion of the self-publishing sector. After starting in Switzerland, Motto has gone from its first permanent bookshop in Berlin-Kreuzberg to offering their publications and organizing events all around the world.

Zug #2 — Alexis Zavialoff: “Moscow”, p. 30–31 (Foto: Motto)

Of course, the artworks and essays discussed here form only a small fraction of the contents of Zug. There is also a brilliant collage of texts by Nicole Bachmann with photographs by Lenke Szilágyi in issue 1, or a great selection of works by skating journalist Jocko Weyland in the second issue. If you like to read more of this skilfully composed zine whose editor has a keen sense for detail and excels in the right combination of texts and imagery, make sure you order your own copy. Zug #1 and #2 are available via Innen’s website.


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