SAFARI FESTIVAL FORTNIGHT!
Outside of a a couple of upcoming festival appearances, Sarah Broadhurst and Julia Scheele’s feminist zine micropublisher and distro One Beat Zines are currently on hiatus until the end of 2017 and the UK small press scene has been all the poorer for their relatively low profile this year.
In 2015 their anthology Identity – a collection of investigations into what the titular theme meant to over 30 women creators – made the nominations for the Best One-Shot category in our Broken Frontier Awards, and included work from some very familiar names to BF readers including ‘Six to Watch‘ creators Jess Milton, Brigid Deacon and Sabba Khan, as well as our Operations Editor EdieOP, Small Press Day co-organiser Amneet Johal, Lizz Lunney, Sarah Burgess and Sammy Borras.
Their most recent book Performance – an examination of gender, performance and performativity – was funded via IndieGoGo last year and, while One Beat Zines are taking time out to redefine their place on the UK scene, it will still be available to buy at this Saturday’s Safari Festival and at Thought Bubble next month. As befits their ethos the work within combines comics practice and more zine-style contributions, ensuring a wide array of styles and approaches to the subject matter.
Behind an eye-catching black and white cover by Brigid Deacon (above right) – which encapsulates the thematic heart of the book in one very fitting image – seventeen creators have contributed to Performance. It’s a natural follow-up to Identity, taking a more focused look at self-perception but in regards to gender, and how that is affected by environment, the perceptions of others and social indoctrination.
Let’s look at just a few of the contributions in the anthology…
Bridget Meyne opens the proceedings with the story ‘Absorber’ (above left) which chronicles a young woman’s concept of self being shaped by the output of vacuous and sensationalist magazines as she voraciously embraces their content. Busy multi-panel placement and a kaleidoscopic use of colour emphasise her frantic immersion in this lurid world. Another early story, ‘Wilder’ (above right) by B. Mure, is an eloquent use of visual metaphor and one of the highlights of the issue. Tribal symbolism is used to deconstruct rigid definitions of gender in a story that ends on a perhaps quietly triumphant note.
Julia Scheele also takes an autobio route in two stories with contrasting approaches. ‘Five Outfits’ traces an evolution in how Scheele presented herself to the world over a number of years with both the unconscious and conscious influence of her mother weaving itself in and out of the narrative. Her second entry ‘Not Good at Swimming’ (below) is a more allegorical reflection on self-acceptance and finding one’s place – lyrical and delicate in its profundity. A reminder, as ever, that we don’t see nearly enough Scheele solo comics.
From a non-comics viewpoint Katie West’s use of Instagram images interrogates and dissects the “performance” theme of the book reminding us through a series of photographic self-portraits of the fragility of social constructs and our immediate, superficial perceptions. Similarly, Amneet Johal and Sabba Khan’s conversational piece ‘The Vagina Dialogues’ is less comics and more graphic narrative in its detailed discussion of performativity, social conditioning, culture and feminism.
That zine-style array of material gives Performance an always accessible appeal, with illustration and text pieces sitting side-by-side with comics and graphic storytelling. The clarity of Meg-John Barker’s comics analysis challenging the real/fake binary in ‘Comfortable Consensual Gender’, for example, is complemented by the representational imagery of Jordana Globerman’s “aspirational gender-normative” paper dolls (above left) as interpretations of its starting point prove diverse throughout.
Performance was one of the books I selected last year when I sat on the ‘Best Thing I Read this Year’ panel at Thought Bubble. This vital and important exploration reminds us of the fluidity of gender and of the ways in which the external can often mould the internal in terms of how we present ourselves to the world. Your opportunities for picking up a copy of this anthology are now limited so if you’re making a trip to Safari make sure you visit the OBZ table this weekend…
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