THE PEOPLE’S PUBLICATION
But what’s a zine really? There are no hard and fast rules, but here’s the general gist: They’re typically selfpublished, self-funded, handbound (stapled, embroidered, laminated) works with small circulations – from a single copy to a few hundred. They cover any number of topics ranging from politics, art, music and social causes to the super niche – such as the aspirations of everyday folks (see Portraits of People by independent publisher Your Local Newsstand), or cast-off furniture in the neighbourhood of Sengkang by SNGKNG (get it?) aka designer Tisya Wong. (Her eight-pager is a laugh-out-loud, tongue-in-cheek take on an Ikea catalogue.) The most pertinent aspect though is the heavily DIY, anything-goes spirit that tends to permeate each one.
As Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, co-organiser of the Queer Zinefest puts it: “(With zines), you are your own editor so you really shouldn’t worry about what other people find appealing. It’s entirely up to you and what you want to do with your work.” In short, it’s a completely democratic medium, be it in style or content.
One of the earliest homegrown zines would have to be BigO, with its distinct punk aesthetic. Started in 1985
by brothers Philip and Michael Cheah as a black-andwhite photocopied publication (it went full colour only seven years later), it extensively chronicled Singapore’s indie music scene, and featured names such as Chris Ho, The Oddfellows and The Padres. (The latter two went on to be featured on BBC’s Multitrack 3 programme.) While BigO ceased print publication after a 17-year run, it still exists online with a global (if esoteric) following, and recently enjoyed renewed exposure thanks to filmmaker Sandi Tan’s acclaimed documentary, Shirkers, in which Philip Cheah was a commentator.
Possibly the most conceptual zine here: Rubbish Famzine, the award-winning experimental art book created by Holycrap – the collective that celebrated graphic designer Pann Lim formed with his family – that’s as good as a piece of multimedia art. Take issue #3 that touched on the topic of time and came in a “time capsule” (a traditional biscuit container) containing ephemera such as scavenged twigs and a cassette tape of Lim’s kids singing, all put together by hand. Each edition has become a sought-after collectible since its debut in 2013 and, at press time, the clan was getting ready to launch the ’80s-themed eighth issue.