A zine, short for fanzine or magazine, is a small, independently published booklet, usually made on paper and reproduced with a photocopying machine or printer. Its formats, genres, and contents can vary widely. Historically, people and communities outside mainstream power structures (from punks, anarchists, to people of color, to queerfeminists) have made zines. Zines, and their reproduction and circulation, offer an alternative to commodified or hierarchical production of conventional print publication. The same is true for their ability to circumvent and bypass the constraints of the contemporary art world.
I am drawn to the zine format for its reproducibility, its punk, DIY, DIT (do-it-together), queerfeminist, and other, multiple aesthetic and ethical possibilities. The zine becomes a critical alternative not only to the sometimes exclusionary sanctity of religious sources, but also to what can at times be rarified and gatekeeping practices of scholarship on those sources. Additionally, I am interested in the small format itself for the relative ease of production and reproduction, and also for its relationship to other small, portable artifacts that circulate, mobilize, and bind community in knowledge-making or imaginary worlds. These include a range of objects from small books of Psalms or copies of the bible that pious people might carry around and read or recite to compact handbooks or nature guidebooks. The zines I make or co-create are under the imprint of Queer Review. I am currently pursuing two projects (with others also planned but not yet rolled out), and welcome ideas for collaboration small-scale or larger with others.
Rachel Rafael Neis. Niddah-Zine (first installment of the Talmud-Zine Project), 2018–2019. Comics version: Xerox of pen and ink on paper. 8.5 in. x 11 in. Courtesy of the artist.
The Mishnah was a compendium of the teaching of the Jewish sages (the rabbis) from the first to early third centuries in Roman Palestine, comprising 63 tractates. The Talmud was the commentary of the later rabbis (ca. 3rd to 7th cents CE) on the Mishnah. In this project we create and co-create an alternative commentary or Talmud, using the format and genre of the zine and covering all tractates (some with multiple zines, but each with at least one). I will be collaborating with scholars and artists on several Talmud-Zines including Mika Ahuvia, Julia Watts Belser, Gil Klein, Chaya Halberstam, Susannah Heschel, Naomi Seidman, and Max Strassfeld. The inaugural zine is Niddah-Zine (or Hamapelet), which redraws/writes a chapter of the Mishnah’s Tractate Niddah on menstrual purity. It is on display here in linear, comic book format (rather than in the folded booklet zine format).
Rachel Rafael Neis and Chaya Halberstam. SuZine (first installment of the AntiquiZines Series), 2019. Comics layout version: brush and ink on paper. 8.5 in. x 11 in. Courtesy of the artists.