“3 missed calls from Earth”
“Pleej Pleej Pleej. Pickkk Up The Call”
These are lines from a zine, titled The Telephone Rang Three Times, by Anantara and Abhirami, which creates an impactful statement about the way humans have been choking the earth. It goes on to talk about the similarities between the covid-19 outbreak and climate change—both demanding unusual levels of global cooperation and drastic changes in behaviour.
The Telephone Rang Three Times is part of 16 zines created for the project “This Is (Now) Online”, now on sale in an attempt to raise funds for covid relief efforts by not-for-profits Goonj and Paigam.
The project was originally planned in April as a physical exhibition by Pulp Society, a contemporary art gallery and workshop space set up this year in Delhi by Vrinda Suneja, curator Sitara Chowfla and Tarini Sethi, co-founder, the Irregulars Art Fair, India’s first anti-art fair for independent artists. They came up with the idea of a zine game people could play together during the lockdown. “It was envisaged as an all-inclusive project, which would motivate artists to create something while giving them a sense of virtual companionship and being a part of something larger than themselves,” says Chowfla. The idea was to create something interactive, not simply put up commissioned work on a virtual platform.
Over three weeks, 78 participants, cutting across age groups, geographies and skill sets—designers, writers, poets, artists, curators, tattoo artists, DJs—came together to collaborate on a series of zines. The original intention was to open up the project to around 30-40 people but the response forced a change in plan. “We created two games. One was Exquizine, as part of which one participant made an image online, sent it to the next player, who responded to it with an image, passed it on, so on and so forth,” explains Chowfla.
The other one was Blind Date, where the team created Tinder profiles of sorts for the artists, allowing for anonymity. The participants could see each other’s interests as well as a few other details. The players collaborated anonymously, with the final outcome revealed at the end of the project. Participants didn’t even need design software. The vision was to imbue them with a sense of purpose that seemed to have been lost during the lockdown.
The 16 zines, according to the curatorial note, explore a variety of ideas, from ruminations on the state of Indian politics in Helf And Caree to an exploration of sexuality and queer subject matter in Intimacy And Incompatibility and reflections on the absurd experience of coronavirus in Found At The Back Of The Bookshelf.
“Big art institutions have been putting up content online, pooling in energy and efforts to support causes, which is a great thing,” says Chowfla. Small-scale organizations and independent projects, without similar resources and reach, have to be inventive in doing projects that can be operated by a team of just two-three and yet offer experimental formats bigger museums and galleries can’t risk. “We are moving towards a new world view, and our intention is to value agency in young people, who are working together and contributing smaller amounts. That’s what we are trying to highlight through this project,” Chowfla adds.
The zines, prices starting from ?500, can be viewed and purchased on Thisisnowonline.com.