Sewing Machine and Traffic Accident: UKI 2019
19 • 05 • 20Bea Istvánkó
Unconventional in every which way including its name, Ukmukfukk Zinefest was organised again this year, for the fourth time. Nicknamed Uki, by now well-established and regarded amongst fanzine enthusiasts as a must-see event, the convention’s mission is to popularise zine-culture in Hungary and bring the local zine community together – in other words, to create a kind of platform.
But what exactly does fanzine (or zine, for short) mean, and what do fanzines have to do with photography? The term “fanzine” was coined from the words “fanatic” and “magazine” back in the 1940s. By origin, fanzine was a free form of publication serving uncensored flow of information between different subcultures, used as a means of communication by groups such as the members of sci-fi communities or the fans of punk bands. From the ‘90s, owing to the spread of the internet, communication became simpler and easier, and this function was taken over by mailing lists and blogs, as a consequence of which, the position of fanzines also changed. Independence as well as freedom of content and form remained important criteria for fanzine-makers in the post-digital age, but the design of the booklets, the relation of text and image, typography, and even ambitious and extraordinary printing have gained more significance. Another important motivation is the tangibility, palpability and browsability of the booklets, which provides a well-defined and unique experience for the recipient in contrast with the intangible infinity of the digital universe. Today’s fanzines are usually printed in limited edition, manually numbered and often signed copies, which places their status somewhere midway between publication and artwork.
Contemporary fanzines vary in terms of content, form and execution; simultaneously with fanzines following the classic tradition of photocopied cut-and-paste collage printed on cheap paper in unlimited copies, now booklets edited by graphic designers and printed on high quality paper are also in fashion. Research and definition of sub-genres within the umbrella term ‘fanzine’ is yet to kick into higher gear, but a distinct class of photozines seems to be emerging somewhere halfway between fanzine and photo book. Photozines are typically edited with a view to the principles of art photography insofar as the represented images are not reproductions of artworks and in no way are they subordinated to textual content, in other words, they are not illustrations. Photozines are often self-published by a given photographer, but there are independent publishers dedicated specifically to printing photography zines, and even conceptual photozines can be found, compiled from found photographs.
Launched in 2016, at the start, Uki had been the platform of essentially illustrative, graphic fanzines that had more in common with comics, but as of this year, its concept changed fundamentally. As opposed to the previous years, when most of the tables at the fair had been assigned to international invitees, this year was the first when only Hungarian exhibitors were invited – as many as fifty-six. Owing to the Zinecubator table, which made room for open calls and first-timers, this year’s fair gave a refreshingly colourful impression, and accordingly, a view on the current situation and local tendencies of photozines. The list of exhibitors included well-established players in the field of photo-based publications, such as MAMA Books or DEPOSIT, and at the same time visitors could also get acquainted with the relevant endeavours of members of the Studio of Young Photoraphers (FFS), or the recently started independent publisher aula.co. This latter is the first in the long rows of stands at the fair that I would like to review in detail. Brought to life by curator Andrea Ausztrics a couple of month ago, the collaboration-based multidisciplinary art project presented one of the most exciting stands at this year’s Uki. To be fair, although aula.co is a newborn initiative, the project’s host and participants have long established themselves in the world of photo-based publications. For instance, the zine Trash of America, available at the fair, gave insight into the less attractive but all the more entertaining face of the USA through the lenses of Éva Szombat, Dániel Halász and Chantal Meng as well as the founder, Andrea Ausztrics. A limited edition of the photozine was available for purchase at the convention, packaged in a zip lock bag full of original American trash, extending the frontiers of zine-making into the third dimension.
The table of MAMA books also featured well-known young photographers, with such classic photobook-type publications as Enikő Hodosy’s bleu, or Barnabás Gajda’s Fake Plastic Tree. Although as its name implies, Ukmukfukk Zinefest is an event dedicated to the genre of fanzine, it is important that photo- and artist’s books from the subdivision of vertebrates were also allowed to enter the fair. Next to the MAMA books stand, FFS made its debut this year at Uki. Functioning as the most important advocacy organisation of young photographers, FFS published a fanzine to accompany the exhibition of last year’s newly admitted members (We don’t play guitars), and several members brought their own self-published zines to the fair. Alternative Fact, the latest photozine by Domonkos Tamás Németh is worth special mention. The A4 format zine of altogether 13 numbered copies throws light on the alternative reality of our contemporary time with exciting visual gags.
A serious advantage of Ukmukfukk compared to big international fairs is that beyond professional publishers and institution, it provides an opportunity for artists to present their individual works. For many artists making self-published photozines, this year was the first time they participated at the event. Anna Ádám - who is not a photographer primarily - was one of the newcomers. Known in the past years mainly for her performance art actions, she went ahead and delivered a number of drawing- and photo-based zines this year. The special feature of her signed and numbered fanzines is that owing to the handmade elements, each copy is unique. For instance, the booklet Regret, Remonds, Rêve was made from found sheets of paper, featuring a hand-painted cover and sewn surfaces in 200 (!) copies. The series of black and white photographs in the booklets are identical, but thanks to the details made with a sewing machine and the diverse types of paper used, each copy can be regarded as a distinct artwork.
In the yet to be published history of photozines, a separate chapter could be dedicated to booklets of found photographs. DEPOSIT presented a number of such publications at Ukmukfukk. Freshly published in 50 copies, ACCIDENT II., for instance, is the second in a line of zines presenting a thematic selection of images of 20th century traffic accidents. Packaged in a popcorn bag, another such thematic selection is ‘cameraman’, which, as its title suggests, gives insight into the lives of cameramen at work.
Although photozines usually dispense with narrative, compiled also from found photographs by Sári Szántó in 2016, DISPLACED is an exception. Illustrator by profession, Moscow-based Szántó put together a pseudo-reportage on the story of the immigrants of a fictional island, told by photo collages accompanied by short passages of text.
One could easily hang out till the end of the day at the 2019 Ukmukfukk Zinefest browsing among intriguing fanzines and publications, as this review could keep listing noteworthy booklets till the end of days, whether photo-based, illustrative or magazine-type. The greatest advantage of art festivals, fairs and demos similar to Uki is perhaps that even just for a few hours, they give a comprehensive overview of current trends in a specific field of art. Perhaps even to those engaged in making independent publications on a daily basis, it was a surprising revelation at this year’s Uki just how colourful, diversified and populous the zine-scene really is in 2019 Hungary. Can’t wait until next year!
(Translation: Dániel Sipos)