There is something inherently punk about zines – a subcultural phenomenon with a small circulation, a DIY ethic fused with the use of appropriated texts and images. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, is inherently un-punk. It is mainstream, it is commercial, it stands for everything that zine culture does not. LOVE: An Exhibition on Zines combined these two unrelated things, merging the punk and the pink, the rebellious and the romantic.
The exhibition, hosted by the Norwich University of the Arts’ zine society, took place at Studio 20 for one day only (unsurprisingly, Valentine’s Day) and showcased a variety of zines, prints and postcards, all made by students.
Scattered across a row of tables, amidst a barrage of candy hearts and red confetti, are the zines. Happily Never After, created by Jade Gaute Brown, is an ode to “unlove”, to buying a heart shaped box of chocolates and eating them all yourself. It contains a playlist of single-and-fine-with-it anthems by artists like Marina and the Diamonds and Charli XCX, a bouquet of middle fingers and a short comic strip that reads “It’s not you Chad, it’s… Actually, no… it’s definitely you.”
What is Love?, by Louise Parmenter, consists of a series of short statements, handwritten on post-it notes, about the many forms love can take – be it knowing their takeaway order off by heart, or making them a cup of tea without them even asking for it.
Saffron Paffey’s short comic The Heartbreak Chronicles is the perfect mix of cute, funny, and just a little bit sad. The protagonist visits the Apple store to get her phone fixed, and is soon flushed with giddy excitement when the super cute employee asks for her number… only to find out that it is for the store’s records.
Though the zines were the obvious focus of the exhibition, the art prints were just as eye-catching. Amalgamations of cinema tickets, magazine cut-outs, film and stamps create a nostalgic, almost Dadaesque portrayal of hazy summer love. Conversely, a simple line drawing of a girl drinking wine alone in her underwear shows the aftermath of such love.
Though perhaps, in an ideal world, I would have spent my Valentine’s Day in a fancy restaurant with my (currently fictional) significant other, LOVE: An Exhibition on Zines reminded me that I was not alone in my loneliness.
NUA’s zine society can be found on Facebook (‘NUA Zines’) and Instagram (@nuazines).