Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bizarrism #12 & Kairan #17

In the midst of the zine tsunami that hit my letterbox recently were copies of the ever-informative Kairan #17, and Bizarrism #12, which looked like it was ironed with a steam press board. I don’t want to bang on about Bizarrism too much, as it's reviewed and commended by just about anyone who has read a zine, so my appraisal would be pointless. But what I do want to say is that I love Bizarrism’s primitiveness. In an era where zines don’t really look like zines anymore, it comforts me to know that peeps are still making zines that look like they’re photocopied at work during a weak moment or two.

When I think of zines, I think of Gianni Simone’s output, most notably Kairan, Orga{ni}sm, and Call & Response. It’s a pleasant surprise to receive material from Gianni because he sends stuff randomly without notice. Moreover, his work broadens my (still) relatively narrow DIY horizons.

Kairan #17 is devoted to mail art chains. I’m ignorant of artistic postal chains, although I occasionally catch glimpses of such artwork on someone’s blog or a social networking site. Through Kairan #17, I shake hands with mail art guru Ray Johnson and his postal activities dubbed The New York Correspondence School, an add-and-pass-on postal system that mutated into an international network in the early 1960s. As it is with zine culture, the communal underpinnings are what make Johnson’s actions noteworthy - his talent for connecting faceless correspondents in a worldwide cooperative undertaking long before the birth of the internet.

I clearly remember chain letters as a teenager in the 1980s. They freaked me out. My Catholic, superstitious upbringing got the better of me, so I burnt every chain letter I touched. I am still coming to terms with the idea of postal chains as arty, benign fun, but can at least appreciate how the system keeps the flow of creativity in motion. Kairan #17 documents the increase in add-and-pass-on activity with mail artists such as Mike Dickau and Ryosuke Cohen leading the way. Far from being the sinister, poorly photocopied letters of my ignorant youth, mail art chain has risen to new levels with the inclusion of photography, digital colour printing, and collective collage. However, the Gothic simplicity of Edward Gorey’s illustrated envelopes appeals to me the most:
It’s a good thing Gianni got the chance to produce Kairan #17 with his collaborator, Vittore Baroni, amidst last year’s earthquake and nuclear accident in his homeland of Japan, and through the existential crisis that comes with being flesh, blood, and spirit. I hear the man has only one or two issues of Kairan left in him, ending a run that started in 1997. Surely not, Mr Simone!

Gianni's excellent blog: Gloomy Sundays


  1. Great reviews! It's wonderful to know what Gianni's up to...

  2. Thanks. Yes, I hope Gianni keeps producing his wonderful work. It would be a shame if he 'retired' from zine-making.