“You must be crazy”, that’s the thought that came to my mind when I first heard of the project.
A mobile library travelling 50 cities in 5 months, visiting the far corners of Europe with a collection of zines and independent photobooks.
Exploring the self-publishing and DIY photobooks underground, creating a network and a permanent library of zines and short run books are some of the reasons that led Guillaume and Julie to start the Zines of the Zone project.
A field work to discover self-publishers and the reasons behind their creations.
Zines and self-published photobooks are usually reasonably priced but their limited print run (and therefore availability) is often in the way of the “democratic” intentions of their creators, often you need to be in the right place at the right time to get one.
The Zines of the Zone crew jumped on a van at the beginning of February and at the moment of writing they’ve already traveled from France to Lisbon and back to Spain during their first week of tour. Next stop: an event with Photobook Club Madrid at the Blank Paper Escuela. If you happen to live in Europe, chances are they will have an event around your city before summer.
We reached them for a few questions…
ALEX: Where the idea of a tour on a mobile library comes from?
JULIE & GUILLAME: The two of us are photographers and books-lovers. We graduated from schools of photography in june 2012 and immediately started working on the project – Guillaume wrote his master thesis about the use of internet in the self-publishing scene.
In the field of photography, the practice of self-publishing is getting widespread, but still we had the feeling that something was missing.
On one hand, the books appear to have a short life. Soon after their publication, they disappear quickly: they sell-out or maybe the authors don’t really know how to handle distribution and/or presentation. We decided to create a place that could act like a memory capsule for these ephemeral objects.
On the other hand, you can find a lot of blogs about independent photobooks, they are usually run by book lovers or curators. You can easily get information about new books, zine fairs, and so on: it is a great way to discover works but at the same time, it is very frustrating because of the feeling of knowing a book without ever having seen it for real. A book is a physical thing before everything else: choice of paper(s), printing technique(s), binding, every detail is personal and important. We want to offer a non-virtual, material and physical way to discover and read new books.
We also wanted to help small publishers showing their work, because they sometimes stop wondering about the book once it is printed. We noticed that the self-published photozines and phobooks have difficulty to emerge from the area (city, country) were they had been published, they don’t cross borders as they could.
Our library has no reason to be located in a fixed place. These books are made for traveling. So we decided to create a mobile collection / exhibition. And as the common idea of a library is a bit stiff, we wanted to make it active, young, and invite people to interact: with music, video, talks, etc. We want to personally meet the authors and the readers and create new connections.
Why travel instead of just making an open call for zines?
We assume that our project is OldSchool-style and romantic. Some might find a reference to circus artists, techno travelers, beat generation poets, gypsies, comissioned painters… Of course we are influenced by all this. DO IT YOURSELF is our motto, but it does not mean that we are anti-internet. We are nomadic-geek-punks, neo-pirates with a open-source library. Our project would not exist without internet: the blogs helped a lot, because we discovered a lot of publishers from abroad, and we created a big database with their contacts. We organized the tour one year in advance, by sending e-mails to small organization and local publishers. We also used internet to communicate about the project: there is a very strong and active network online. When we published the open call online (to invite publishers to send zines and books for the library), we did not imagine that it would work like that. We received a lot of books and nice messages.
Now we are going to meet publishers in real life, put a face and a story on each book, and collect and spread new stories.
How will you travel and where will you sleep?
We travel by van. We are a team of 4 friends.
The main core is David, Basile, Guillaume and me, Julie. At the end of the road, Pierre will join us, too. There are 5 seats in the van, and the team goes from 3 to 5 people. Maybe we can fit a few more people if we hide under blankets.
We don’t really know where we are going to sleep: 3 people can sleep at the back of the van, “just in case”. We will mainly couchsurfing.
We are traveling with expandable shelves that Guillaume designed for the project. We have 6 of them and we can fold them in the van and unfold them in any space.
So if you are reading those lines, if you live in one of the cities of our tour, and if you have a couch, a mattress or a room for us, we would be glad to cook something for you and get some sleep in exchange!
What is your purpose and what you want to achieve with the Zines of the Zone tour? What kind of realities are you looking for ?
We want to get a better understanding of “why people make books” – we are curious about “the story behind”. Meeting the authors would also help us talk about the books. It is a way to create interactions, generate a network.
The original was to create a public collection and gather people around it. We also wanted to build a collection that would last in time: to inspire people, and to keep on moving. The project is open, and collaborative – the team is also open. As long as there will be people around, the project will continue to exist and grow.
We want to share the collection with a lot of people – with people who don’t have an easy access to culture, with people who are not aware about the practice of self-publishing, with any curious visitor.
We like the “Do It Yourself”, it’s a way to freedom in a sense, and it deserves to be shared.
Oh, and we do it for fun.
It is an important point!
If somebody wants to send his own zine or self published book, how can s/he reach you?
Everybody can contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
As we are on the road, it would probably take some time before getting a reply.
There was a mailbox and an open call before the departure date, but now it is closed and the mailbox is no longer ours. You can still send books to:
ZINES OF THE ZONE
Daisy & Violetta
95 boulevard des Anglais
44100 NANTES, FRANCE
We would get them in June and add them to the library.
OR you can also post it in advance to one of our collaborators: the places that will host ZINES OF THE ZONE in a specific city.
The best way is to come to one of our events and give it personally.
Was such a tour hard to organize? Are all the gigs already booked and if not, how can people help you to create an event?
It was quite hard to organize because once we had the idea, it was only the two of us working on it, with no previous experience in such things. It took almost a year just to set up everything. Julie worked on the whole communication and booking. Most of the dates are booked now – except from Tallin, Vienna, Antwerpen, Istanbul. And we are still looking for hosting solutions!
We have collaborators in each city, helping us to realize the project and organizing things in a local way. We also received emails from people offering help: for example, we got contacted by Sergej Vutuc, he is a photographer and independant publisher. He was born in Bosnia, grew up in Croatia, lives in Germany, and he traveled a lot and knows a lot of people around Europe. He helped us getting in touch with people and he is also coming on the tour with us for some dates.
On your website you state “In each city / step of the tour, we organize a pop-up event: we show the collected objects, and try to collect new ones. In some places, we are also organizing events such as: lectures, workshops, debates, and DJs sets”. What kind of activities you have in mind and how will you engage the audience?
This was made possible thanks to our local collaborators and our network. In some of the cities, the people we were in touch with decided to do more than a zine-exhibition. We sometimes organize workshops, talks, book launches, it depends. We like the idea of engaging the audience in different ways other than the book-experience.
About the self-sustainability of the project, what kind of funding are you using?
By now, the road trip is made possible thanks to public subventions. We got a financial support from our city (Nantes, France), the region (Pays de la Loire) and the European Commission (Youth in Action).
We are a non-profit organization (association MUTINERIE) and we are volunteers. By now, it is OK for us because we are traveling around and we meet nice people. But we will have to find other ways of getting money soon, because the project is not self-sustainable. We got public funding for the tour, and the traveling expenses are covered until June. But we are already booked in other cities after the tour and we don’t have any budget.
But we’ll manage, we’ll find ways.
Will you keep a log of your experiences and findings while on the road?
We will broadcast our own radio chronicles on a local associative radio: Radio Prun’, in Nantes. There is a nice and quite big tradition of free / associative radios in France. The chronicles will also be online as podcasts, and we will share them on our FB page.
We have a road-blog-diary here: http://blogznzn.tumblr.com
And the collection database is here: http://zinesofthezone.tumblr.com
Thank you Akina Books! We are looking forward to meeting you in London 🙂
Zines of the Zone closed the tour with an event in London in June during the Straybooks festival organized by AKINA.