The art and anarchy of Zines


In the boisterous lanes of Mumbai’s Chapel Road, nests a small room that screams all kinds of truths. Zines of every shape and size take up each corner of the room. All filled with poetry that is very intentionally atrocious, collages that defy the rules of design, and a vibrant use of colour that breaks every theory. Fluxus Chapel hoards the most anarchic form of art: zines.

‘The intention of my writing is to let people sit with themselves’

Zines can talk about nothing and everything. Originating in the 20th century, they continue to be an art form that artists find solace in. Yosha, an artist from Jaipur, reveals that her approach to writing isn’t something that would work commercially or with a publication, so she made zines to put out her writing. ‘Even if it’s going to be small, it’s still going to be my voice’, Yosha confides, ‘the intention of my writing is to let people sit with themselves’.


When learning design software became too cumbersome, Yosha made her first zine ‘My Little 299 Stories’ on Canva. Her second zine, created with Kashin Patil, is called ‘Names are arbitrary’, a mixture of poetry, prose, and illustration.

Without the burden of the public eye, artists can communicate ideas in more intimate and honest ways. Zines don’t exist behind paywalls, memberships, or sign-ups; most artists put out their zines on the internet for free. ‘Nobody’s telling you—you can’t say it like that. You can’t talk about these things. Nobody is trying to silence you because you don’t need anybody to put it out. It is the very lack of structure that gave agency to Navya, a self-taught artist who also goes by Larch Tongue.

Their zines ‘Genderfail’ and ‘‘I’m not bitter’ plunge the reader into their brain, using crude humour to process their several realities. The self-publishing aspect of making a zine meant that no external institution could censor or edit what they wanted to say.

‘There’s no thumb rule; they (zines) give us small freedoms,’

The same goes for Rahul, a photographer and zine collector from Mumbai. He took up zine-making because publishing an entire book would require years of experience and major funding. Instead of surrendering to restrictions, he published his analogue photography in a zine. ‘Bombay on a Roll’, his first zine, is the culmination of images he took over years, while ‘A Mountain Town Morning’ contains film photographs during his trip to a rural locality. ‘There’s no thumb rule; they (zines) give us small freedoms,’ Rahul shared.

Listening to the artists passionately speak of how they connected with the medium, unveiled that all their reasons were so different as a result of their varied realities. The more one delves into zine culture, the more it reveals itself as an important artefact that remains entrenched in counterculture. The alternative to mainstream platforms became a way to circumvent restriction; flourishing due to mutual support from zine creators. 

We mustn’t alienate zines by viewing them like most other forms of art. The very refusal for them to be confined as an artform prevents it from ever belonging in an exhibition space. Instead, they belong in the hands of people who resonate with the small revelations found between the pages. Zines are very much alive, and thriving in artistic anarchy.

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