Interview April 2nd Alba Café, Gulou
于4月2日 鼓楼 Alba Café 采访
KL: How did you guys get started in this? Do you come from an art background or a zine background?
Shui: Basically, we’re high school friends. We actually had the same art class in school and then we ended up doing the same degree in college. We went to universities in different countries. She went to Canada…
Jinna: And America.
Shui: Slash America and then I went to the UK. We both studied illustration.
Jinna: I don't know what the UK taught in illustration but in America, illustration was more into drawing and seeing what you see and less metaphorical. That’s what I feel like.
Shui: And then the UK was more about ideas and concepts and coming up with your own style of drawing. We kind of reunited 2 months ago. I moved back to Beijing and Jinna was already here. When we met we realised we both wanted to do something related to illustration.
KL: It sounds awfully fateful. So you knew each other in childhood ended up studying the same thing and then ended up back here at the same time. So what was the catalyst for starting this project?
Jinna: I feel like I wasn’t really drawing every day and I really missed drawing. We were kinda pushed into more of the design world where it’s easier to make money. So, I wanted to draw every day so we were like, hey, why don't we talk to Beijing people and it started off from that.
Shui: Yeah, exactly. I think we realised that we both like drawing people. A lot of our works involve people and portraits so we thought the most accessible resource is around us in Beijing and it’s interesting and we want to record it. Jinna came up with the phrase hole in the wall on a whim and that became the title of our zine and the theme of our zine as well.
Shui：是的。我们都喜欢画人物，我们有好多作品都是和人物、肖像相关的。目前离我们最近的资源就是北京的人儿，我们想记录下有趣的人物。Jinna一时兴起想到一个短语“Hole In The Wall”,于是我们索性将其用为杂志的标题。
KL: So speaking of resources, do you consider the zine itself to be a resource for people considering it gives a brief character summary (it's quite amusing reading it with the marginalia you make)? Do you expect people to go through it and think, that seems like my kind of person maybe I'll head down to DADA?
Jinna: We kind of wanted to see what different people do because Beijing is so big and people move in different circles and I feel like whoever comes to where our paths cross their paths, we wanted to record and see what they do. We don't really talk to people about deep stuff until like here’s an excuse to talk to them about their lives.
Shui: People love to talk about themselves. People really do. When you ask them, can I interview you, they're like, yeah, why not? People just love to talk. It's interesting because it's also kind of like an icebreaker for us, an excuse to talk to people. We met a lot of people just by asking, “can we interview you for our zine?”
KL: So they are all strangers?
Shui: Most of them.
Jinna: Half of them.
Shui: Some of them are strangers.
KL: How do you choose a target?
Jinna: I feel like, depending on if they look interesting or if they’re there and we’re interviewing one person they look over and we are like, “do you want to be interviewed as well?”
Shui: We kind of categorised different social groups at first. We had different social groups like the underground hip-hop rappers and agricultural hippies, then after awhile we kind of just smooshed them together. Whoever we thought was interesting was worth interviewing so we did.
Jinna: All of them spoke English except for one.
Shui: Oh yeah, a few of them actually. One who spoke Cantonese as well so it’s kind of a mix and we translated it in our heads into English.
Jinna: So it’s our own perspective of what they said.
KL: Are you mainly interested in young Chinese people or are you looking at foreigners as well?
Jinna: I don't think we have a type.
Shui: Anyone who has an unusual lifestyle. Not the normal nine to five job, anyone who does unusual things or has alternative lifestyles, I guess.
KL: And you are going out to venues purely for this project or are you just conveniently using where you were going out to anyway.
Jinna: We’re going out to do it.
Shui: We actually sought out some of these people, like the Supreme guy.
Jinna: We went to the Supreme shop in Sanlitun because a lot of the people looked really interesting there so we interviewed them.
Shui: A lot of them who worked there were actually DJs and musicians. We were actually planning to interview the owner because Jinna knows him but we ended up interviewing some of the employees because they seemed interesting and we realised when we were talking to them that they are actually musicians and they were getting excited talking about how they used to DJ and stuff. I also went to a farmers market because I wanted to walk around and whoever looked interesting just ask them, can I interview you? Then, like Jinna said, when you're doing that, other people look over and then you interview them as well.
KL: Do you think part of it is that people want to see a drawing of themselves?
Jinna: Yeah, definitely.
Shui: They’re always interested to see how people draw them, I guess. A lot of them want to take pictures of it and they ask if they can keep it. Stuff like that. I think it’s interesting because we have similar styles but the way we draw is still kind of different – the way we perceive the same person. I think people like to see a different perception of themselves.
KL: Have you ever offended anyone? Has anyone ever looked at the drawing and said, Ugh! My nose isn’t that big!?
Jinna: Mmhm. Yeah, so I drew my friend as I saw and he was like, why did you draw me so fat? I was like [groans awkwardly]. I didn’t mean to!
Shui: Not every single sketch made it into the zine so there was some, at least that I did, that weren’t good enough. I didn't want to offend anyone so I didn't put them in.
KL: How long did it take you to put together this first issue?
Jinna: We interviewed people in a week. Every day after work we would try to seek out people and then one day, she skipped work and we just put together it together. So one week. Ten days.
KL: That’s very quick. How prolific do you plan to be? How frequently will you put them out?
Jinna: We have an idea for the next one but I’m not too sure when we’re gonna start it.
Shui: We have a lot of ideas. Actually, we don't just want to make a zine, we want to make a brand and then we’ll do stickers, t-shirts and tote bags, anything cool we can think of. Anything fun. Next zine? Maybe soon.
Jinna: Yeah. I feel like when we’re on the subway, we always come up with crazy ideas and she likes to draw people on the subway too. For our next project we’re not gonna sleep for 24 hours and then record everything. If it’s like fate or chance, whatever.
Shui: We were talking about being nocturnal and we thought, what if we record everything that happens in a night in Beijing? Go around everywhere and just record everything.
KL: Just leaving it to fate?
Shui: Yeah, pretty much. I think most things we do aren’t planned. They’re on a whim, mainly.
KL: So you have these hundreds of subway ideas that are not really thought through but you follow them in an incubatory phase?
Jinna: Pretty much.
KL: How old are you?
Jinna: I’m 24 this year but still 23.
KL: Is this your first project doing something together, but also individually, doing something creative in this way?
Jinna: I made a lot of zines in San Francisco because I think Oakland and San Franciso are really concentrated on independent things. Like little pop-up stores or crafts. They are really concentrated on handmade stuff so I made a few zines, collaborated with a few people but this is the first time doing it in Beijing.
Shui: For me, I think once I got out of uni, I was focussing on building a career so I kind of put illustration aside. It was only when I came back to Beijing and met up with Jinna did I think, I wanna do this again so this is my first project really. Proper illustration project that is, especially in Beijing. So I’m quite excited to do more.
KL: How do you feel about the scene here? You were saying in San Francisco there's such a big creative scene. Do you feel like this is a great place to start a project like this? The zine culture here is still very small and slowly emerging. Do you think this is the right time for it to burst out?
Jinna: Yeah, yeah because Beijing is changing so fast and now it's like everyone is getting used to the change and it's a time when you can record things. Like record the change or, you know the people who are doing the demolition zines — they're recording history. I've been talking to a lot of people and they've been saying that in the Gulou scene, a lot of them love handmade stuff. They're bringing it back to the more independent making culture. Which is really nice.
Shui: DIY stuff. I guess, compared to London, there’s tonnes of zines in London but I feel like it’s really quite matured. Underground culture isn’t really underground anymore. A lot of people are doing so I think, in Beijing, it’s great that we’re kind of at the beginning of it. At least, there is so much potential and it’s great that we’re part of this development.
Jinna: Yeah, and Loreli, what you guys did for the art market reminded me of being in Oakland where there would be this art block. Every first Friday there’d be an art block party where everyone comes out and sells their own stuff. A whole street’s closed down, people play music, there’s food. It just really reminded me of that. I thought, Ah, I feel like home!
KL: It would be great to be able to go do it in the street but, alas… I think we would have problems very, very quickly. I know when I was a kid and zines were a thing in the 90s, it would be record stores. We’d go in there and there would be a whole wall dedicated to zines and you’d see guys going in stuffing their photocopied zines in there. Who is helping you out here? Where is the support coming from?
Shui: So far we haven’t really distributed that much so. I think the first time we distributed was at the exhibition I took part in — Questions Vol. 2. It was organised by Someet, a platform for creatives to post and organise events. [They got young people to post questions they have online, anything to do with life, relationships, family, career…basically anything. Then on the day of the event they displayed these questions throughout the venue for participants to answer on post it notes. During the event they also displayed works by photographers, illustrators, designers.] I was supposed to sell it but I ended up giving it away for free to lots of people. The next day Jinna went to an art market and sold it there. So at the moment, we really haven’t been distributing that much.
Shui：目前为止，我们还没大范围发售那么多独立杂志，第一次出售是在Questions Vol. 2这个展览上，这个展览由一个创意的活动组织平台Someet举办的，[活动前，他们在网上征集年轻人的问题，关于爱情，家庭，工作，生活等一系列话题，然后在活动举办当天，让参与者现场回答这些问题。其中，他们还展出了一些摄影师，插画师，设计师的作品。]我本来是准备销售我的作品，最后还是免费赠送了。还有一次是Jinna参加一个艺术市集，倒是销售了一些，所以我们其实还没有大范围的售卖。
KL: Do you think it will be difficult to make a profit? Traditionally they were always free, that was the culture but do you think this is something that will develop in a way that creative will be making a profit?
Shui: Hopefully, because everything that creatives do, there was time and effort put into it and they do deserve some money for it, some credit for it. Sure, in an ideal world it would be free but we all have to eat. We all have to earn a little bit from it so hopefully, it can become, obviously not the main source of income, but a small part of it at least.
Jinna: I also liked how everyone was supporting each other at Loreli. That was really refreshing to see.
Shui: Everyone supporting each other and helping each other out. We don't want other people to step over us just because they think it’s just a photocopied pamphlet. A lot of people don’t understand what a zine is and don’t understand how much time and effort was put into it.
Jinna: But it’s also promoting us, for example, we put our QR code at the end of the zine so if we do end up giving it out for free then someone will look at it and think, maybe I want this illustrator to work for us or something like that. It's a way of promoting what could be eventually.
KL: I think the first step is teaching how to pronounce zine [like the end of magazine]. I’ve been hearing a lot around Beijing about zines [to rhyme with line]. I was hoping you would be able to tell me where to find zines because I can’t really think of anywhere except fRUITYSPACE where you could get them. Oh, and Wujin.
Shui: I saw on a wechat group, someone is launching a zine so I’m sure it’s popping up. More people are doing zines and stuff and it will be interesting. The event where I distributed our zine, a lot of people were interested and I think they kind of know about zines as well. It was only local Chinese as well so it’s not just the expat community that knows about zines. I think young, hipsterish, artistic Chinese know about it too. I think there will be more places where they’ll pop up.
KL：我觉得你们要做的第一步是教人们正确发Zine这个词。（magazine的尾音zine）我在北京听到好多人发成类似Line的尾音。我希望你们能告诉我北京除了 fRUITYSPACE和 Wujin有卖zine，哪里还能买到这种同人志？
KL: How do you say zine in Chinese?
Shui: I don’t know. I told them magazine like zazhi (杂志) but kind of like a xiaoce (小册), a little book. I didn’t know what to call it.
Jinna: I was thinking about it because “zine “ comes from maga”zine” just a smaller magazine so if we could cut zazhi (杂志) it would kind of be zhi (志). [both laugh]
Shui: I think we’re still quite new to the scene. We didn't really think about how we were going to distribute it or anything, we kind of just did it for fun and we were just going to give it out to as many people as possible. I guess our next step now is to find ways to distribute it beyond our immediate circle.
Born in Tokyo and raised in Beijing and Canada, Jinna uses her free time to study and record cultural differences. She can be found in cafes, or on the street doing the 'Beijing squat', drawing her surroundings. Freelancing as an illustrator and graphic designer, she is currently working on a graphic novel that explains, through personal experiences, post WWII in Korea, China and Japan.
Shui is a wandering creative. Grown up in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and London, she has always been an outsider to her environment. Experimenting across various medium, including print, digital and moving image, she bases her work around the people she discovers. Her sketchbooks are filled with drawings of strangers in public places such as subways, cafes and bars. She tries not to judge her subjects by simply observing and recording.