Robert Hopes World: So Jean how long have you been making zines for?
Jean McEwan: I’ve been making them for about a year and a half now.
RHW: And what made you start making zines?
JM: Well I went to Bradford Zine Fair last summer and something strange happened to me on that day!
JM: Well i became completely excited in that room.
JM: I had never been to a zine fair before. and i discovered a whole room full of, like, hand made self publications! That whole idea just really excited me. Plus I really liked the aesthetic of traditional handmade zines.
RHW: And what had you been doing up until that point?
JM: Er what did i do before – before i started working with zines i mainly worked with video.
RHW: Do you still make video based work?
JM: Not at the moment – but that doesn’t mean that i wont in the future.
RHW: Excellent. I believe that you have a project that you are working on at the moment – a big zine project, is that correct?
JM: Er yeah, i’ve got a couple of zine projects on the go. One of them is, i’m curating a contributions based zine dedicated to the outsider artist Henry Darger.
RHW: And er i think you said a couple of things? And what is the other one – what’s the other project?
JM: The other project i’m working on is issue 2 of a zine called, ‘I Stood Up And I Said Yeah‘, which is a zine i run for the artist collective – New Work Yorkshire. I’m a member of the collective and i run the membership zine. Issue 2 is erm, each issue has a different theme, issue 2 is themed provocation and so i’m currently working on that – getting contributions from the members.
RHW: And er where will these be available – are they available to er to purchase?
JM: Yeah. Er the er Henry Darger zine, which is called: ‘Mad as a bad tornado‘ and is gonna feature…
RHW: Great title!
JM: …thank you, er is gonna feature contributions from artists and writers, from fiction, poetry, there’s a letter in there, photography, drawing, illustration, collage, erm that’s gonna be launched at South Square [Gallery].
RHW: And when is that?
JM: That’s in Bradford on Friday the 4th of November.
RHW: And when you say launched, how is it being launched?
JM: Well i’m gonna have a stall and… erm.. i’m gonna be selling it there for the first time. And then it’s gonna be on sale both online and at a number of events and outlets.
RHW: Are there other events happening at the launch?
JM: It’s the preview of a new exhibition and so the launch is happening as part of that.
RHW: Excellent and would you like to elaborate some more on what we can find in Mad as a bad tornado.
JM: Yeah erm….the content represents different kinds of responses to the life and work of Henry Darger. Erm… responding to different things about him which is really interesting. There is an illustration that, for example, responds to the war and conflict that you find in his work. Erm there’s a photography piece that responds to a lost photograph which …erm…. Henry Darger had a photograph of a little girl, who i think may have been murdered, and he used to collect clippings from the newspapers and use these in his work. And he had this photograph from the newspaper as part of his clippings and he loved this image and he had a great affinity with this poor little girl and he lost the image and he was distraught for years – that he had lost the image. It came up alot in his writing and his images and so one of the photography pieces……..deals with that.
RHW: You obviously know a lot about Henry Darger.
JM: Yeah, i’m a little bit obsessed with Henry Darger.
RHW: Right… and for anybody who doesn’t really know Darger’s work where’s a good place to start?
JM: Wikipedia has a lot of good links and articles and some images of his work. It’s quiet hard to find books about him but i have a really good one, which is called: ‘Henry Darger’ (Jean laughs) by Klaus Biesenbach. It’s a big thick, coffee table book, that has many of the artworks and a few essays and some of his autobiography excerpts in it. It’s really tremendous book.
RHW: And i believe that there is a film about Henry Darger?
JM: There is, yes! A really great film called: In the realms of the unreal, which is the title of his main work. The film was out in 2004 and it’s a kind of biography about Henry Darger. But it’s really interesting and well put together and shows the work beautifully.
RHW: Excellent! And erh, is there anything else you would like to say about Darger?
JM: Just really that i have come to realise, through curating this zine, how mysterious he is, his life is and his work is and how un-knowable and dark and kind of disturbing it is. I think he’s an artist that, for many people, not just me, is very fascinating and he continues to be relevant – i think till this day.
RHW: Well thank you and when does it go on sale again?
JM: 4th of November at the South Square Gallery and after that through a range of outlets and events and on line. I will be posting details of all those things up on the zine blog – link here!
RHW: All right – thank you very much.
JM: All right – thank you very much! Can i have my breakfast now? (laughs lots)