OF ZOOS and the zine scene in Singapore
Posted on May 4, 2013
Kimburly Lim, Singapore
Editor, OF ZOOS Zine
The digital age has brought with it a myriad of changes and shifts to our perceptions and sensibilities, and has introduced an entirely fresh dimension to our lives — dimensions that have allowed us new modes of contemplation and new modes of functioning. The publishing world has not been spared, and undoubtedly recognizes the revolution with the introduction of ebooks and monopolies. Yet, the shift away from print has brought with it a new zine culture – where independents curate and publish their very own literary, art and mixed media publications. Today I speak to a good friend Kim, the founder of OF ZOOS, one of the first Singapore-based online zines that feature poetry, art and everything in between.
How was OF ZOOS conceived?
I think it started with a profound admiration for our peers. There was and is so much to admire in the people around us—our close friends with literary habits on the side, a distant acquaintance with closeted artistic skills, or anyone else that expresses a simple interest in all things creative. We thought: wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a platform for our friends to showcase their lesser-known talents? That question extended to: what if this platform reached out beyond our circle of friends, and ‘found’ another just like us? Finally the question became: Who should do it; and can we do it? So we said, okay.
The rest was history—coming up with a name, a team, preliminary publicity through social media, and spending 10 hours watching Dreamweaver (a web development software) tutorial videos on YouTube to learn HTML and CSS.
Were there specific visions of supporting local writers and artists? Or was the zine intended to be an international one spanning cross borders on the Internet?
Oh definitely, as I’ve already mentioned, we were first inspired by our Singaporean peers.
Singapore has such a particular art geography—precisely because we are still small and growing, we are at a most exciting stage of art development. Local artists and writers have buckets of talent, they are slowly emerging into and out of the underground to claim their voices, and they have a variety of avenues to engage in. It is a thrilling time to ‘come out of the closet as a local artist’ right now.
And of course, as members of a larger (zoological) community that is the world, we also welcome non-Singaporean contributors, since art is ultimately a universal partaking. Our featured contributors have so far been equally divided into Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans. The happy benefit of such an arrangement is that we can become a site of exchange. For example we conducted a workshop last summer via email, and participants from Singapore and other countries had the opportunity to share their work with each other. In fact, geography is becoming less of an issue; what we are primarily concerned with now is how we can take ‘local’ artistry—local referring to the body of a single individual or a single work—and expand it into a global one—global referring to any external exchange, collaboration, borrowing, stealing, or riffing off of the single work. Hence the inspiration behind our upcoming Issue 2.1 “Riff, Steal, Collaborate.”
Was there an option of going print? How did you choose between print and a web-based zine?
Unfortunately no! We are non-profit and entirely volunteer-based with little to no resources and expertise for a print medium.
Each has its pros and cons. Web zines have a wider reach and are more accessible; newcomers who have never published before may also feel more comfortable with online anonymity. Zines are also easy to operate, and do not require funding. It’s easy, breezy, beautiful, and practical in this age of publishing.
Print of course is more precious and lasting perhaps, something nostalgic you can fold between your fingers or tuck away in a shelf. At the beginning stages of envisioning OF ZOOS, I even considered printing a physical zine to distribute to contributors, for no cost, just so they could hold the work in their hands and say, “Look, I actually did something and now I own it.”
Thoughts on the general movement of openness toward zine publication?
The best part about online publishing and electronic literary magazines is that there is so much freedom and flexibility with the form. It is a wonderful stage for artists to be showcased. Some people may lament the fact that the specialised process of print is being sacrificed for just another ‘website,’ but hey! So much goes into a zine publication in terms of design, layout, marketing, etc., so in a way it is not unlike print.
Publishing is changing whether we like it or not, and we have to fall into place (though that’s never going to stop us from treasuring the physical pages of a magazine or the smell of a book, right?).
Personally, my dream is to see a proliferation of online literary zines, rooted or founded in Singapore. We are not enough to account for the diverse artistic community.
Every zine or publication has its own particular artistic sensibility, and because of this, someone with a contrary artistic style may not be able to find a home with a certain zine, despite the legitimacy of their work.
Lastly, what were some of the difficulties faced along the way?
Learning CSS and HTML for one! *laughs* I actually had to learn that from scratch. Otherwise, our most pressing issue would be publicity, as it is for every other non-profit business. We do this for our audience and our audience alone, and as a result need to continually cultivate one.
If you received full funding tomorrow, where would you take Of Zoos to?
Practically and in the near future, there is the issue of securing a .com domain, and we would invest in publicity and marketing efforts.
In the long run and as a faraway dream, extra funding would go into helping to materialise the magazine, physicalising its soft online HTML existence into print copies, face-to-face meetups (instead of email-conducted workshops), prize money for writing contests etc.
OF ZOOS is an electronic literary magazine by Singaporeans for Singaporeans, and everyone else. OF ZOOS publishes poetry and its sub-branches, or poetically sensible art. OF ZOOS loves literature and art; invention and tradition; artificiality and verisimilitude; ecstasy and subtlety; tenderness and the sublime.
Kimburly edits and curates OF ZOOS, and is currently completing her B.A. in English.