The zine culture in India is witnessing a new excitement. Print zines allow people to express their creativity in a more tangible format and indulge in their curiosities, so to speak. A ubiquitous part of the 90s culture, zines are making a comeback and there is perhaps a need for them now more than ever before.
Aditi Kapur, is a visual artist and a music buff currently working independently. We chatted with Aditi about her art, recently self-published zine ‘(un)taboo’ and her love for music.
What’s (un)taboo about?
(un)taboo zine is a collection of six social and cultural taboos that people face universally in different degrees and forms; that in so many ways cripple our freedom and affect what we really believe in. In the zine, these taboos are presented as illustrations/artworks that are interactive. At first, you see images that look absolutely normal, socially acceptable, nothing shocking. But then the viewer/audience needs to get involved and scratch out parts of ink in each artwork that are hiding the taboo.
Just the way we hide anything in our lives that may have a stigma or any potential social boycott associated with it. The whole idea of this exercise is for the audience to go through a small "struggle", feel uncomfortable when they see the taboo at first, and then hopefully embrace it or empathise with people going through them and having to hide from the world.
Is there something in particular that inspired you to come up with the zine?
Yes. It was the Nicolas Jaar Sirens' vinyl record that used the lottery paper/scratch-able ink to reveal the artwork. The whole sleeve had to be scratched out with a coin to discover the artwork - which was an old photograph taken by the musician's artist father. I loved the medium, I loved the idea of having the audience participate with a piece of artwork and go from curiosity and cluelessness to ‘aaah ha’, this is what it is! Just the fact that the artist involved you in this process is so much fun and makes you feel closer to the art - music in that case. So since then, I wanted to use the ink in a project. I have an inclination towards using interesting materials in my work, and an ink that can be scratched was without doubt, something I wanted to explore. Also for quite some time now I have been thinking a lot about the archaic social norms that we continue to live with, partly because of my own experience with facing a few of them. It is unsettling to be dealing with something internally, and at the same time trying to act “normal” to the world because of the potential stigma and condemnation it may bring upon someone. From my own personal experience as well those shared by my friends, I wondered why we were being ‘hushed’. In some instances, we maintain our silence owing to the fact that some taboos have become so internalised and conditioned, that we don't even realise that we have accepted them.
I knew this was something I wanted to address and that’s when the idea of making a zine using the scratch-able ink came about.
Tell us a little bit about the making the zine - the printing process?
The printing process was as important as the concept of the zine and the making of its artwork . I worked with Pritam Arts (a family run screen printing studio in Mumbai), who from the beginning were quite stoked about the zine and understood my vision right away. It's rare to meet such perfectionists these days, but this father-son duo (Mr. Mendon and Prajval, two of the founders) is the coolest. This was my first time getting something screen-printed, so I was lucky to get a crash course in that area and I don't think I can go back to any other way of printing now! It's a cathartic process, to see your work come alive in physical form with screen-printing. Very satisfying.
We understand you're a big fan of exploring all kinds of music. Has music ever been the inspiration behind the art you create?
Oh, all the time. My dream job had been to only make album artwork for artists, do music festival branding, live visuals and installations. I may not even know how to do a lot of it, but it's an exciting thought either way. As a kid, my sister and I would curate playlists and had a great collection of mix-tapes, cassettes and CDs. My sister made a friend online who was a DJ (the times of Yahoo chatrooms ☺!) and we sent him a list of over 1000 songs and he made CDs for all. We still have them back home. So either in the background or as a key focal point, music has always been present in my life. My one-year stint at Oranjuice Entertainment was me trying to understand the music industry and get into the live music space and it was one of the most insightful and challenging phases of learning. Last year, working with the electronic musician Sanaya Ardeshir of Sandunes for her album Downstream was a lovely experience too, because even though we represent different parts of the creative industry, we could still relate a lot to each other in terms of how we approach our work, what drives us and just, the process of creating. And at some point in my life, hopefully soon enough, I want to learn how to make music as well. Or DJ. It's just something I know I have to give a shot to!
What other interests do you indulge in, apart from creating visual art?
Discovering music, going for gigs, making playlists - like I already mentioned, is one of the things that makes me feel extremely positive. I got to travel quite a bit in 2016 and it was amazing, more than I thought it would be. So that's definitely something I want to continue doing. Psychology and human-behaviour storytelling is another area that has always intrigued me, so in the last few months, I've been obsessively reading about and watching some old crime cases and documentaries. Interesting stuff. I'm about to start learning Spanish, I feel like I have no knack for learning languages so I want to see how true that is – hopefully I will prove myself wrong. I'm also at some strange point in my life where I feel the need to start collecting things. Old bottles, short stories' books, pins, cutlery, pens, records, just about anything. And I think apart from creating visual art, what I'm loving the most recently is my lovely one year old niece - Momo. That kid is all kinds of adorable.
Copies of (un)taboo are now available for purchase on our online store. Shop here.
Disclaimer: At the time of the interview Aditi Kapur was a subscriber to Paper Planes subscription service.