Building an artistic community in India through zines

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When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the world to go digital in 2020, a small team of artists, writers and curators in New Delhi, India, began working on a dream project, driven by the joy of printing. Irregular times (TITLE), India’s premier art and design journal, attempts to cultivate a community culture around design and zine making while creating a platform to share fresh and interesting voices from the country on a quarterly basis.

This DIY project spanning 52 pages of art, writing, photography, architecture, food and interactive media was designed after the success of the 2018 and 2019 editions of Irregulars Art Fair, the world’s first ‘anti -art ”from India. In February 2020, the third edition of the fair was postponed due to Citizenship Amendment Act protests across India, followed by the pandemic.

“While it was calming and calming not to participate in another nerve-wracking physical event, we felt that as an entity that thrived solely on community-driven art endeavors, we would start to lose value. relevance. In the midst of the pandemic, everything experiential had already started moving online, and by the end of 2020 there was a certain level of angst and exhaustion surrounding these online experiences. We couldn’t bring ourselves to work on an online production, ”recalls Anant Ahuja, editor of TITLE.

Irregular times spread page

After several discussions with Tarini Sethi, editorial director of TITLE and co-founder of the Irregulars art fair, the two decided to combine Sethi’s love for analogue printing with Ahuja’s obsession with newsprint, and experiment with the newspaper format. “It was simple: if people can’t come to our events and experience art physically, let’s bring them the art,” says Ahuja.

Their early market research through surveys and discussions with those who still pursue print publishing gave them the courage to launch the newspaper, which has already sold over 1,000 copies and more. The first issue, Please wait for the host to start this meeting, explores the impact of digital addiction in our recent lives. From an essay on rewilding in India by environmentalist Cara Tejpal to dystopian imagery by visual artist Anpu Varkey, to a deep dive into the artistic practice of Chiraag Bhakta, the journal features a variety of interesting voices. .

TITLEThe first successes show that the print is alive and well. “Printing is definitely not dead and proving that this is something that is really important to us,” Sethi shares. “I ran a zine collective with a friend called Working time collective for years and have a lot of experience in zine making and its history. All of my work as an artist is also completely analog in nature, so personally I really prefer things to be printed. Anant has also produced numerous zines and designed print publications and we both understand how vital it is to be able to experience art in person.

Irregular times spread page

For the managing editor, the newspaper is an extension of the art fair. “We exist primarily to give artists a platform to showcase their work while educating them and showing them that something like this can be done by anyone,” she explains, adding: “With TITLE, we wanted to experiment with new ideas and make sure that this platform was not just for the artist community, but had a broader reach and was both accessible and understandable for a community. more diverse. “

TIRT is a labor of love, with additions like a DIY zine insert, a categorized column for jobs in the creative sector, and Sheena Maria Piedade’s “Ask a Friend” advice column. Discussing the ideation and curation process, Sethi says they wanted to bring back an element of surprise in the form of columns and activities that old Indian publications had, while also making it as interactive as possible. “We wanted people to WANT to keep the journal and come back to it whenever they were looking for inspiration, ideas or just to learn something,” she explains.

Irregular times spread page

“The ‘Announcements’ column makes sense because the resources for artists and creatives are so limited in India and it is so important to have a community of people to talk to and learn from. The DIY zine insert is because we want people to be able to learn a new trade in each issue. We encourage our readers to cut out the page, fold it, and go really crazy. Likewise, we have an adult coloring page, “Anonymous Adults”, to get people used to the idea of ​​“sex” without having to really talk about it. Sheena’s “Asking for a Friend” column was another one we knew we had to have. It takes us back to our childhood, where we read columns of advice in Cosmos review or Today’s teens. “

The creators collaborated with Mumbai-based design studio BunxPav to create the visual identity and design language for the first edition. “Mayur and Yadna from BunxPav brought a strong sense of typography, grids, structure and design layouts to the table. Since the journal had so many different features, articles, and interactive elements, it was imperative that we have a design language that gives us enough leverage to experiment and break the rules, while still tying the set together. publication, ”Ahuja notes.

Both say one of the biggest challenges was completing the diary during the lockdown and in the midst of so much pain and loss. “We had a limited number of paper options because most of the paper stores in Delhi were closed, [and] we had to postpone the work with two artists that we had announced, due to losses in their families, and had to suspend our screen printing partnership with Pulp Society because their entire team was locked up, ”Sethi shares.

Irregular times spread page

But these early setbacks only prompted them to redouble their efforts and take stock of what they have learned to produce future editions that are even more innovative. Ahuja says, “We were constantly excited about the next issue and I think that’s probably how we knew we were there for the long haul. Instead of making mistakes and feeling down, we knew we had learned from them and could use them to make the next issue even better.

According to Seti, Irregular times will be released quarterly until it becomes more financially viable. “Until then, we want to push the boundaries in the art and design space, collaborate with interesting people from India and beyond, and just create a culture around print media and the creation of Zine.”

Irregular times is available for reading online or in print.

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