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Plotki Femzine-
a central european feminist zine

An interview with

Anna Voswinckel

from Berlin/Zürich

by Elke Zobl and Haydeé Jiménez

July 2007

 

"Feminism is a way of thinking, an attitude, a permanent awareness..."
- Anna
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Plotki

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
I’m 31 years old, originally from Hamburg, Germany. At the moment I live in Zürich, Switzerland, where I studied Cultural/Gender Studies. Before I studied graphic design and worked as a freelance graphic designer in Berlin.

What do you do besides your zines?

I do photography and I like to write, but that’s still very connected to the zine work.

Just recently I was part of a group of three women who curated an exhibition at Shedhalle Zürich, an alternative exhibition space. The project was called “Lost&Found”. We brought up questions about the connection between pop and gender; if pop still has a potential for feminist and queer emancipation and self-empowerment, and where this potential can be found today, regarding the widely mourned loss of musical counter-cultures. I very much enjoyed working on that, and I got to know interesting projects, such as this grrrlzine network. Anybody interested can take a look at the project archive at: www.shedhalle.ch

I also love to play football, but I’m not a good player. I started to play only some years ago; I never played football as a kid which I very much regret!


Can you tell our readers about Plotki? What topics do you discuss in your zine most often? What inspired you to create your first zine?
How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?

Originally Plotki was a project that supported trans-national exchange of ideas within Central Europe. Within this geographical space there’s lots of discriminatory media coverage and we wanted to do something against it. But it was very much a fun and leisure project, not basically political. People who joined the network had the possibility to travel within Central Europe, because we got funding for that. So the action of meeting each other was basically political (free travel for everyone, regardless budget and VISA-restriction), but the articles weren’t so much political or counter-cultural.

I don’t consider Plotki as a zine in the DIY sense. It is a mixture of a magazine and a zine, because there used to be a structure with fixed roles like some people being editors, others doing the graphic (including me), and the project was financially supported by EU-institutions.

The zine character was that we produced something out of an urge to do something, also because we felt the pleasure of making a magazine without thinking about potential readers and the quality of articles ect. Recently there has been a change, with the whole project becoming more of an online zine and with it more democratic and self-organized. There are more and more Eastern-European project members doing editorial work and initiating projects. (before Germans were clearly dominating the organisational level)

Last year some women within the project created a zine, the “Plotki Femzine”. Isabella Willinger came up with the idea. She was inspired by zine projects she got to know in New York.

The idea was to launch feminist and queer topics within Plotki; as it is a vibrant topic in our lives and in Central and Eastern European politics today. We got an overwhelming response of writers who wanted to contribute. I found it so cool to read articles about the queer movement in Eastern Europe, which wouldn’t have been published before within Plotki.

I took the opportunity to write an article about Plotki, mentioning some personally frustrating situations which I haven’t been talking about before. So the zine for me worked pretty much as a means of compensating, of “writing back”. Some people within the project didn’t like that at all. But I think that’s the very point of zines: You can write whatever you want about whoever you want in whatever style you like. And that’s fun. You make enemies but also new friends.

Where/how are your zines distributed? Who are your readers? What kind of responses do you get from your zine’s audience?
As Plotki was never really a zine we didn’t use distros, we just give the copies to friends, sell them in some shops, and you can order them via our website. On the website there are comment-functions, so the writers get direct feedback. I got a lot of friendly feedback for the graphic design. Authors once in a while are complaining about the graphics , because they find their texts not well layoutet. But that’s the problem of the lack of DIY culture really; people think I’m sort of a graphic service provider—which I’m not of course.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zines?
To build up a network of creative people from different countries, to challenge stereotypes about society in Central Eastern Europe, about gender and ethnicity in general.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
Experimenting with visual language, work in collectives.

What do you think about zine-making today?
It seems a little eccentric to still produce copied zines today, with all the internet-blogs etc. But I like to have things lying around in my room. It’s easier to collect things this way, if they are of material matter. There are so many cool articles I read online, and saved them on my hard disc, but I hardly ever read them again, or I forget into which folder I saved them.

With all the stuff lying around, it’s pretty much work to tidy up my room…but there’s always a chance of rediscovery of cool thoughts, by reading zines that have accidentally been fallen behind the bookshelf or anything like that. Zines are also lovely presents for people.


What role does the internet play for you?
It’s mainly a research tool for me, and I also read articles on the internet. But I don’t like to publish on the internet. I don’t like web-blogs so much, because everything you write is immediately accessable and I somehow feel uncomfortable about this.


What are some zines you have read lately that you would recommend to someone learning about the zine-making/reading world?
Hmm, there are so many zines already in this archive; it depends on the personal focus and the specific humour whether or not a zine can be inspiring for anybody. I very much like the zines of Zürich based Anne-Käthi Wehrli and her artist collective “sea”. Her zines are: “Peng Peng”, “ Teenage Days Parts I + II”, “El Pais”, “Existenzforschung Alltagsmagazin”, “Freundesfreundin”. But I guess they are hard to find outside of Zürich.


Plotki

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
To get in touch with other zine-makers, to find a cheap and supportive copyshop with patient employees…

What does the zine scene look like in your area? Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you?

Some of my friends in Zürich produce zines, some are collecting them, i.e. the group “K-Set” collects zines and mixtapes. Most of the zines are beautifully produced with lots of graphic art. Maybe that’s due to the tradition of graphic design in Switzerland.

So far I only wrote one article in the zine “Elend&Vergeltung”, so I don’t yet feel part of a zine network, but I’m glad there is such a community, I like the people, and it’s fun contributing to a zine.

Do you consider yourself as feminist?
Yes

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?
Well, there are so many disturbing things… The uncanny feeling of feminism being made undone within a society that suggests feminism is not necessary anymore, because women have equal rights and power, they can become top managers and politicians etc. But on the other hand sexism is increasing, and also race and class biases intensify.

For instance in Germany there has been a very annoying media campaign, mourning the inability of German women, especially the well educated, to procreate. To me there where two things very annoying: First of all the nationalism/racism in these debates: Apart from the world being overpopulated, and migrants being forcefully inhibited to enter Europe, there are definitely enough children born in Germany, but not all of them having a German citizenship. Obviously they don’t count. And secondly: The notion of educated women not doing their duty as proper citizens. So smart women are a menace to society…This is extremely backwards.

Another example from Zürich: I noticed that there are more visible sexist marketing concepts now, that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. For instance there’s an American steak house franchise, “hooters”, where waitresses have to wear hot pants and tight shirts etc., there’s only male costumers, and it’s in a prominent spot. To me it’s an obvious provocation. It says: Look what we can do now, hehe! There’s also a car wash company, where male employees are dressed casual, but female employees, maybe only as a promotion strategy and not permanent, are dressed like a porn fetish fantasy, as female cops with short skirts and tight shirts. In that dress they wash the cars. The car wash is in a street with car-prostitution (german: Autostrich). How sick is this?


Plotki


Plotki

What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
Feminism is a way of thinking, an attitude, a permanent awareness to the fact that in our societies patriarchal structures are built up and transformed permanently. Feminism fights misogyny, that is the hate for women and all things connected to “femaleness”. Even today one still has to insist on the fact that Women are not inferiour to men, neither are gay men inferiour to heterosexual men etc. In the (neo)conservative media there are permanent attempts to prove female inferiority with science, natural history and brain research, because in western societies science is considered the ultimate authority. Also one has to be skeptical about the endeavours of western societies to put themselves in a good light when it comes to women’s and gay&lesbian rights, and other countries are labeled as more “backward societies” with extremely misogynist and homophobic character.

Feminism is not very popular among young people today. It’s seen as oldfashion, powerless, uncool, putting women in the position of victims. These prejudices are hard to combat. RiotGrrrls did a good step in defining feminism as something cool and powerful. I also have hopes in “queer” movements, because it can bring together so many people of different backgrounds, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, as queer doesn’t mean only “gay&lesbian”, but it definitely means “feminist”. The sticking point is to diffuse these academia concepts, make them comprensible for all people, not only the ones with academic background. Zines for example are a good, playful and delightful means of doing this, also pop music and films.


What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?
Such a society would clearly fight misogyny, would built up respect for concepts of identity that aren’t binary and fixed, such as transgender people live, and also border-crossing people with different cultural backgrounds: non-binary subject positions. That would need a huge transformation of society, that is constantly building up on dualistic constructions, Such as male/female (in passports, public toilets, sport teams and everywhere), sane/insane, native/foreign etc.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?

My wish would be to write more often about things that bother or fascinate me. I’m a sluggish and lazy person, so very often I don’t finísh things, and keep them to myself which is a pity. Amazing enough I finished this questionnaire…


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info:

Anna Voswinckel

annasvea [AT] gmx.net


 


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