A big thank you to Michael at Winklebag for a very enjoyable day last Saturday getting to know how to use an Adana Eight-Five press, and to Claire for organising this day as a Christmas present.
I don’t know whether people still produce fanzines or not, but Kek-W is so tired of writing online that he has decided to produce one. Or rather, as he calls it, an analogue blog.
Titled Kid Shirt, this is basically a physically constructed fanzine involving actual cut and paste, which has then been scanned as a PDF for anyone to download. He sets out his rationale in the first pages:
Just like fanzines of old, this analogue blog contains lots of musicians you’ve probably never heard of. However, worthy of note is the strange hybrid between digital accoutrements and physical form, and the over laps in different media that Kek-W has deliberately exploited. For example, posts become pastes, and ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons simply indicate what direction you need to go in: they aren’t buttons at all. Further to this, comment fields remain empty because the PDF you download is a static, non-interactive document.
It is interesting to note the “proper writing” comment in the introduction, (see below), as I wonder whether the lack of audience right to reply to the text, frees up the writer. It could also be considered in direct contrast to the Guardian’s current Open Journalism campaign, which is something I could applaud if I hadn’t read many of the idiotic comments left on the Guardian website by knee-jerk reactionaries.
Aesthetically, Kid Shirt completely shreds any signs of slickness, despite the whole having a lo-fi sophistication. This, in my opinion, is all part of the publication’s charm. On his digital blog, also titled Kid Shirt, Kek-W states: “Download it, print it off, staple it together, read it like a fanzine… Or…if you’re a MediaKid, use a PDF-reader, dump it onto your tablet, whatever,” before going on to vehemently disclaim any responsibility for it not working on different platforms because his call for testers was ignored. The punk attitude he displays is more than a visual style, evidently.
In fact, it is with this in mind that I was reminded of an article in Eye 82, whereby Rick Poyner wrote about British artist Laura Oldfield Ford’s Savage Messiah fanzine. He stated that the, “visual style is a kind of reclaimed punk that recalls the anarchic graphics of Crass,” (while completely forgetting to name check Gee Vaucher, the artist behind Crass’ visual output, in the process). Well, while there are similarities between Savage Messiah and Kid Shirt in terms of the crude nature of the layout and artwork, this is much more intriguing to me, as the narrative of online publishing has been used which takes this beyond mere pastiche, as could be claimed of Ford’s work. While much less political in terms of content than Savage Messiah, Kek-W is more oppositional as these virtual signifiers are détournements, that add a critique of contemporary publishing, something that affects all who dabble in online social networking. Ford’s anachronistic visual style potentially distracts from her important messages, where as Kek-W’s is at its heart.
Claire and I have recently returned from a week on the North Norfolk coast. We were staying in a restored fisherman’s shack halfway up a hill that overlooked the Salthouse marshes and beach. Like many people who go on holiday nowadays, we took many electrical gadgets with their associated chargers.
Despite the digital devices that shackle us to power supplies that we insist on taking with us everywhere, one of the greatest joys of the holiday was watching ships and the Sheringham Shoal wind farm through our binoculars. We bought these on the recommendation of a twitcher colleague. We wanted something reliable, comfortable, and good value for money—we didn’t want to spend mega money on a pair that were more than what we needed. We bought them several years ago, somewhere in the region of £60–70, from Cley Spy on one of our many trips up the Norfolk coast. To some this may seem like a lot of money, but they were some of the cheapest in the shop. Having only used cheap binoculars previously, I can assure you that it is worth spending that little bit more. When not holidaying, they generally live in our car, only coming out on odd occasions. But as Claire and I usually insist on holidays that involve views, they are usually a permanent fixture when away from home.
One of the things that these binoculars made me contemplate while we were away, was how I have got so used to looking at things on screens, and rapidly accepted that I need to charge my daily digital accoutrements to the extent that I have to take plugs and leads with me where ever I go. Yet while the images that appear projected onto the double ‘screens’ through these Helios Field Binoculars are crystal clear, they don’t need plugging in; no power is involved, there are no batteries to recharge, and I don’t need to turn them on. Strangely, and momentarily, I found myself surprised by this, as if I had made an observation, (no pun intended), that I hadn’t considered before.
That these thoughts should strike me is an indication of how my mind has subconsciously linked the phenomena of seeing imagery on a screen with my use of electronic media. Obviously binoculars aren’t a screen—you look through a lens—but never the less, there is a double illusion going on here. Firstly, the trick on the eye/mind in bringing things closer to view. Secondly, that my mind is reading these images as being immediately in front of my eyes on the glass discs encased in metal, rubber, and plastic. Through recent lifestyle decisions of always having screens with me on the go, be that a digital camera or iPhone, my brain has, without questioning, accepted this as a way of seeing imagery. To some extent, it could be argued, that I am no longer seeing this imagery on the screen, I am now merely looking at it.
To add an irony to this tale, I have just considered that these thoughts struck me while watching the gentle beauty of an offshore wind farm, built because of our insatiable demand for electricity due to our growing habit for digital/electronic gadgetry. And in light of all this far distance navel gazing, I have a renewed wonder for my pair of humble binoculars.