nothing special – Zine-making as an approach to (critical) disability (studies) and as feminist art (pedagogical) practice

MA thesis / 2019 / Art Education / Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture / PDF

Thesis zines on my bed, 2019.
Image Description: A pile of three tiny magazines is placed on a white plastic bag that is places on a bed with a white waffle fabric bed cover. A white wall, a white heater and parquet floor are showing on the background. The zine covers are mostly made out of brown paper. Each cover has a smaller colorful cover leaflet on top of main cover (violet, light blue, yellow). There is unreadable black text printed on the covers and the cover leaflets. There is a bigger black text with Arial font on the cover of the zine that is on top of the pile that reads: ”nothing/special ZINE”.

This art education master thesis is an artistic research about collective zine-making as an approach to critical disability studies and as an art pedagogical practice. It consists of three zines that can be read individually or together in a chronological or non-chronological order. All three zines study the entanglement of art, learning, disability and resistance that contests the pervasive ableism of our university as well as art institutions and societies in general. These entanglements are tied and untied with the history and tradition of zines, artistic dwelling, cripping and assemblage analysis. This master thesis ponders around the tensions between individual and collective, an identity and a phenomenon, fixed and unfixed, familiar and unfamiliar in feminism, art, disability and in general.

The first zine, Beforelife, consists of an article “nothing/special ZINE: A Collective Zine as an Approach to Critical Disability Studies and as Feminist Art Pedagogical Practice” that was published as a part of Feminism and Queer in Art Education in summer 2018. The article worked as a prologue for the research, as a fantasy or a utopia of a community, that a collective zine would make possible. It stemmed from the question of “How could an art zine discussing mad, sick and crip art be and what could it do?” I used texts by Johanna Hedva (2015, 2016), Alison Kafer (2013) and Mikko Koivisto (2017a, 2017b) as well as texts from the fields of “zine studies” (Creasap, 2014; deGravelles, 2013) and critical disability studies (Goodley, Lawthom & Runswick Cole, 2014; Shildrick, 2012) as my main companions in this article.

The second zine is the first issue called “nothing special” of nothing/special ZINE, an art zine for mad/sick/crip art and a feminist platform for discussing madness, sickness and cripness and/is/through/and art that was published online and in print in fall 2018. The first issue of the magazine featured 18 artists. The zine is the production part of the thesis.

The third zine, Afterlife, consists of a comprehensive introduction to the process of making this thesis and the phenomena behind it. The zine also includes an assemblage analysis of the nothing/special ZINE and the survey answers that I gathered from the submitters of the first issue of the zine. It will critically examine my own memories, feelings and pre-assumptions are in relation to the thoughts and feelings of others that participated the project. It attempts to find possible answers and approaches to the question “What can collective zine-making as an approach to (critical) disability (studies) and as feminist art (pedagogical) practice do?” In this zine, I continue from the themes and thoughts of the first zine, but also bring out the contradictions between these two writings. I use texts by Johanna Hedva (2015, 2016), Mitchell and Snyder (2014), McRuer (2006, 2014a, 2014b), Jasbir K. Puar (2013), Eliza Chandler (2012), Michael Feely (2019) and Goodley, Lawthom & Runswick-Cole (2014a, 2014b) as main resources for this zine.

The methodological choices in this thesis stem from artistic approaches and pure curiosity towards new-materialist theories. The theoretical framework of disability studies is mashed up together with artistic knowledge and non-academic sources such as social media accounts and blogs. This master thesis offers departure points for others pondering with questions of feminist pedagogy, zine making, disability, resistance and art.