Earlier this year, Abby and I created a collaborative mixed media art collage for an exhibition hosted by Art Starts. Named “Referent”, it was a illustration/poetry collage that detailed landscapes and vignettes from the cities of Hong Kong and Toronto, places that Abby and I both have ties to. The web-based format was a play on the lack of a single point of origin, and the piece was largely a construction of loose snapshots that we construct our homes out of, as opposed to a fixed narrative pathway.

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After the exhibition was over, we wanted to translate that piece into a different medium, particularly, into the zine format.

The problem with translating text and image into book form is that they are essentially anchored in a set pathway, which was anti the purpose of the work. Eventually we decided on a couple of elements that would allow us to transfer the spirit of the piece into a book-based medium.

What we ended up with was a hand-cut and hand-bound zine with empty pages, lined with photo corner tags. Then we hand-cut 24 poems and 24 illustrations onto 2.5″ square cards, to be gifted in tandem with the book.

“Referent” the zine is a put-it-together yourself zine, allowing individuals to free associate the connections between these images and poems. In line with the spirit of the visual art piece, every “Referent” zine will be different from the last, because of a different curating hand and eye.

This experiment turned out to be quite a spectacular collaboration. The little zines have since gone out to different owners across the city, each one a different narrative web. Like all things related to memory, the referent is tenuous and precarious, but in precarity also deeply personal and foundational. Rather than fearing our lack of grounded references, through “Referent” we celebrate the many different stories and experiences that come out of that fluidity.

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Posted by:jasmine

Jasmine is an editor, poet, and community arts organizer. She comes to poetry by way of Chinese music. This blog is a mapping of ways.

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