Taking its title from the concept of traditional women’s magazines constantly degrading us due to lack of designer wardrobe/überly attractive partner/perfected physical appearance, KnockBack Magazine is an A5-sized package of feminist fun.
Having launched its debut issue with the tagline “The magazine for women who aren’t silly bitches on a diet”, the publication with tongue in cheek humour and razor sharp wit is currently on its sixth issue.
Twin caught up with contributions editor Hilary Hazard to talk about modern feminism, independent zine making and the joys of not taking life too seriously…
As a self-described “anti-Cosmopolitan”, how did KnockBack Magazine come about and what is the mantra behind it?
KnockBack (KB) was started because there weren’t any magazines talking to us. Sure we wear high heels and mascara, but we also have ideas and think being mean about someone because they look bad is worse than looking bad. We value good manners and good times and we were bored of being patronised by women’s media. We also wanted to show that ‘light hearted’ doesn’t have to mean ‘idiotic’ we can do low-brow and intelligent and good looking. We can, and we did.
What does feminism mean to you today?
I really don’t know anymore. I thought I had it down and it was just about respect but then a proper feminist kicked me in the shin and now they make me nervous.
KB aims to occupy the middle ground between political feminism – which is all female circumcision and rape statistics* – and women’s pop culture, which is all deodorant and celebrities. They are the two extremes of the female experience, KB is the happy medium.
*not a million miles from the comment I made just before getting kicked in the shin.
Issue themes have ranged from Hardcore to Smoke and Mirrors. How do you decide on the concept of each issue and what is the process of producing an independent zine like?
We use the themes as a guideline to be ignored in the face of something better. The process is a slow one, everything has to be perfect (it isn’t) and everyone has to work hard (we don’t). The problem with working independently, with no advertisers, deadlines or money, is that when we have meetings we also have bottles of wine and parties and lie-ins and days off and roast dinners.
Who are your feminist icons?
Jane Bussman (author of The Worst Date Ever), Tank Girl and my Nan, because they’re fearless and funny and they work hard. My Nan got alopecia when she was 27 so spent her whole life bald as a melon. When we were kids we’d wait until she was in the shower and then steal her wig so she had to chase us while we ran away screaming. She is a tough old broad, but she is also confident and content and that’s a massive challenge for modern women, even skinny ones with pretty hair. Most women spend their whole lives thinking they’re fat and ugly and comparing themselves to people who are thinner and prettier, my Nan just got on with it.
Jane Bussman is a comedy writer who went to Uganda because of a handsome US aid worker and subsequently wrote a book that somehow manages to bridge the gap between comedy and horrific war crimes, corruption and a child army (which is a f*cking big gap). And I like Tank Girl’s shoes.
We find feminist icons in women who are cool to each other and are proud to be women and are good at it. The KB hero is Tina Fey (Liz Lemon), because she’s funny and she loves sandwiches.
Who is the typical KB reader?
Students doing PhD’s in women’s studies, and the editor of The Spectator.
There is always a humorous tone to KB, is this an attempt to put a bit more fun back into the publishing industry?
It’s partly because funny women are something we set out to celebrate, and we really don’t take ourselves seriously at all. But also if we did straight down the line feminism stuff then only feminists would read KB, this isn’t for them, they’ve got forums all over the shop. Plus we’re funny women and it’s ours so it would be weird to make it serious.
What can we expect from the next upcoming issue?
A long wait, a snazzy cover and some jokes (but not as many as we’d like because half the team had babies or got married and everyone’s too exhausted to stay angry).
Last but not least, what are some KB words of wisdom to live by?
If it’s not funny, don’t do it, if it’s not free don’t eat it and f*ck cupcakes.
What do you get when two young creative women, call together their friends to contribute to a zine dissecting what it is to be creative and female? The answer is teenVAG, a zine that explores coming of age, beauty and the body from a firmly feminine viewpoint. Confounding stereotypes and creating new imagery that fits their own feelings, Twin spoke to Natasha and Allison about teenVAG…
Where did the name teenVAG come from?
The name “teenVAG” is rooted in yesteryear conversation with an especially dear group of friends- we often threw around the word “pussy.” Coincidentally, we all previously held internships at Condé Nast.
What thoughts preoccupy you as artists and how is teenVAG a conduit for them?
There are infinite forms of expressions. Collectively, the constant desire to create has fuelled our greatest artistic ventures and our initiative enables these visions to come into fruition. We are constantly developing ideas, themes, and insights while cultivating a unique rapport with an incredibly talented group of our contemporaries. teenVAG has allowed us to create an evolving, communal space we share amongst our featured artists and audience.
Why did you feel the need to form a female collective of artists?
New York is a super hub of creatives. The artists we worked with on Issue # 1 inspired the idea of an all female project- they set the groundwork for the basis of the project. The progression of Issue # 2 continues to foster a strong voice and female presence we feel most necessary amongst the creative community.
Why is a zine still an effective way of communicating ideas in the era of blogs, tumblrs etc?
It is tangible- there is physical contact with our audience. The viewer experiences the artist’s work without interruption and becomes a part of the collective dialogue taking place. The zine becomes a perpetual vehicle of communication that can always be revisited. In our digital age it offers a slight sense of nostalgia and a quiet escape from the fast paced nature of the information super-highway.
Who are the other female artists involved in the zine?
We work with twelve artists each issue- a mix of friends, acquaintances and artists we admire. Issue # 1 focused on the basis of photography and featured the work of Nina Hartmann, Sandy Kim, Maggie Lee, Nicole Lesser, Kathy Lo, Katheryn Love, Luisa Opalesky, Logan White, Coco Young, and Nadriah Zakariya.
Issue # 2 encompasses several mediums ranging from sculpture, to illustration, painting and mixed media as well as the inclusion of photography. Issue # 2 features work by Aimee Brodeur, Elizabeth Jaeger, Olivia Locher, Carly Mark, Katie Miller, Anamaria Morris, Sophie Van der Perre, Rebecca Andrea Richard, Tara Sinn, Brooke Ellen Taylor, Alexandra Velasco, and Jessica Williams.
What, if any, obstacles do female artists still face?
teenVAG: When initially reaching out to print teenVAG Issue # 1, a business denied carrying out the job due to “explicit sexual content,” “pornographic” imagery, and a questionable title. Female artists face connotations that are inherently attached to their art due to gender- we want to break that stigma.
Where is the zine available?
The zine is available on our online shop http://teenvag.bigcartel.com/. as well as a selection of stockists in NY, LA and TX. For a full list of stockists check out our website teenvag.com
We are planning our second show for May of this year- it will be a collective exhibition surveying the work of artists we have been working with for the past year. In the coming months we will begin the conceptualisation of teenVAG Issue # 3 due out in September 2012.
We’ll also be doing a collaborative selection of pop-up shows and mini-events throughout the summer- we are very excited to continue working with an amazing network of creatives and hope to expand teenVAG to its fullest potential