Our Own Fractured Narratives
Taleen Kali finds the space to get weird in DUM DUM Zine
ABQ Zine Fest organizers Marya Errin Jones and Liza Bley are at it again. This year's iteration of the celebration of self-created and printed media—the sixth such gathering—is happening on Saturday, Oct. 8, across three spaces—the Tannex, GRAFT and Small Engine Gallery. The first year I tabled at ABQ Zine Fest, the course of my life was changed forever by the friendships that were formed. This year's celebration of the medium, with support from the Fulcrum Fund, is sure to be just as life-altering for all who make their way to Barelas to exchange the handmade publications they've so lovingly written, drawn, cut, copied, bound and stapled. This year also marks the first visit of LA zine virtuoso Taleen Kali, editor in chief of DUM DUM Zine. DUM DUM Zine consistently challenges the expression of the zine medium, presenting experimental art and literature that might take the shape of a disc, a multi-media box or a newspaper. Kali, a writer, artist, musician and punk rock yoga instructor, exchanged a few emails with me a few weeks before her visit. Our exchange was as follows.
Alibi: How did DUM DUM Zine first start taking shape in your mind?
Kali: Thinking back, it probably all started in an experimental "Fractured Narratives" class taught by Janet Desaulniers at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was finishing up school there while working as an arts and music journalist and noticed how my work became more and more experimental, and in that last semester's class I got to share it with others who were writing similar, amazing stuff. I wanted to connect and collaborate with more people and create a hub for our work to see the light of day.
What did you want to do that you didn't see other publications doing?
In 2011 when DUM DUM Zine took shape, I was writing for a lot of publications like The Onion, A.V. Club, SPIN and Flavorwire, and while some of them let me get weird, I was still struggling to get work as a writer. I wasn't experienced enough to have my more colorful pitches be accepted through cold-calling, and some of the publications that were publishing me slowly began shuttering or streamlining during the recession. Listicles and rote interviews dominated the internet landscape and I wasn't able to hack through or get mentorships going with editors because most of them were losing their jobs!
“In 2011 when DUM DUM Zine took shape, I was writing for a lot of publications like The Onion, A.V. Club, SPIN and Flavorwire, and while some of them let me get weird, I was still struggling to get work as a writer. I wasn't experienced enough to have my more colorful pitches be accepted through cold-calling, and some of the publications that were publishing me slowly began shuttering or streamlining during the recession.”
However I'd still get some work doing interviews and reviews. Often when I'd research an artist, the same answers would come up over and over again. I wanted to be part of changing that conversation, to create ways to provoke interview subjects into getting excited about answering questions ... So I came up with quirky ideas like "postcard interviews" and "text message interviews." When none of my pitches got accepted, I decided to create my own platform for them. Interviews are still my absolutely favorite thing to do, after writing my own music and poetry.
Can you talk about your first experience reading/experiencing a zine?
I saw my first zine and learned all about them when I was about 19 years old … It was Dishwasher Pete.
Were zines seminal in any way for you?
[Zines were] seminal for me because the only writing outlet I had at the time was LiveJournal and writing concert reviews for my college paper. The zine format empowered me to have my own voice outside of the options available to me. A few years later when I found scans of riot grrrl zines and manifestos on Tumblr, I was awakened to write my own music for the first time.
Why is it important to change the shape of DUM DUM Zine with each iteration?
It's how we constantly challenge ourselves and the literary and art community around us to change, evolve, [have] new conversations and ideas flourishing. We want to be a generative space and platform for new ideas!
What excites you most about the medium?
It's so open-ended and inclusive. A zine can be anything from a single page to a gallery installation! The format is so liberating.
What do you look for in content as an editor?
Our … editors look for emotionally honest, thought-provoking work that pushes the boundaries of literature. Whether it's micro-fiction, a video poem or some sort of hybrid media experiment, we want to see it and be a platform and support system for the kind of work that has a hard time finding a home in more traditional literary spheres.
What are you most interested in as a writer and/or reader?
I'm interested in art's function in helping people and affecting social change. I'm interested in reducing suffering. And I'm interested in community building and healing.
What are you excited about lately?
I'm really into audiobooks lately! I like to listen to them while I clean, work on zines and crafts. While I'll always love reading a book and appreciating its tactile experience, my art-making time is limited and my need to read gets starved out when stuff gets busy. Audiobooks are awesome for busy times! I've been listening to a spiritual one that my friend and collaborator Yumi Sakugawa recommended called Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver, and it was a spiritual game changer for me. I also downloaded Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and his narration is hilarious! My friend and amazing drummer Catherine Serafin just told me that Carrie Brownstein narrated her own memoir too, so I'm definitely going to download that one next.
What do you hope to gain through your time at ABQ Zine Fest?
I want to meet more zinesters, see more zines, and just, well, exist in the zine zone! I really mean that. Every year, LA Zine Fest comes and goes so quickly and I often feel major separation anxiety afterward. So, I'm especially glad to be doing more zine fests this year to keep that celebration going. As an interdisciplinary artist there are so few places that are platforms for the different kinds of work I make: zines, records, tapes, ephemera, print paraphernalia. I feel the most connected [to] myself and others during these fests because we collectively embrace our intersectional identities in the zine making, trading and selling.
Catch Kali at ABQ Zine Fest proper between 11am and 6pm, or hear her read on Zine Fest Eve, that is, Friday, Oct. 7, at 8pm. Your last chance to catch Kali in Albuquerque comes in the shape of a one of her punk rock yoga classes on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 12pm, at the Tannex.