The AIR Wro programme brings self-publication of fanzines from the Basque Country to Poland

Euskara. Kultura. Mundura.


Art researcher Eneka Fernández and artist Raisa Álava participated in an artist residency in Wroclaw in June and July promoted by the AIR Wro programme (Artists In Residence Wroclaw). Under AIR Wro, European artists and researchers take part in a residence programme in the Polish city, based on a different topic each year. The theme of this year’s residency was self-publishing. We asked them about the experience.

Art researcher Eneka Fernández and artist Raisa Álava participated in an artist residency in Wroclaw in June and July promoted by the AIR Wro programme (Artists In Residence Wroclaw). Under AIR Wro, European artists and researchers take part in a residence programme in the Polish city, based on a different topic each year. The theme of this year’s residency was self-publishing. We asked them about the experience.

Fernández and Álava carried out different projects related to self-publishing in Wroclaw. Fernández’s six-months residency project was based on research: “I mapped the self-publishing scene of the city, identifying the different stakeholders and listing them all. With the information, I created a publication,” she explained. She also presented her publication at an event: “We presented it in an encounter of self-publishers, where I also showed some of the publications of my collection.” Álava gave a two-day self-publishing masterclass as part of his three-week residency. “The aim of the workshop was for each participant to create their own fanzine, and a second one working together,” she said.

The length and way of developing each project was different. In Fernández’s words, “e had several meetings starting the first day. We first put together a list and then got to know different authors, projects and spaces around the city.” After the research phase, it was time to publish: “We knew we wanted to publish the research but, most importantly, we wanted to work with a local printing house. It took half of my residency to complete the research and the other half to put together the publication with the results.” Álava, on the other hand, had already prepared her project beforehand. “I based my workshop on activities geared to creating comics. Comics usually work on script, image and different ways of narrative; this way, the participants could choose what to work with: if someone was better at drawing, they would draw, while another person would do the writing. The aim was basically to overcome the fear and demonstrate that anyone can self-publish.”

Fernández and Álava agreed that their projects were very well received. “We came up with very interesting ideas in every meeting,” said Fernández. “The research also helped some of the stakeholders to get to know each other. The event we organized also helped people discover other previously unknown publications,” he added. “People was very keen to participate, and the suggestions that came out of the workshop were very interesting. We all worked hand in hand.”

Fernández and Álava also agreed that the organization of the AIR Wro programme was excellent. “Everyone we met in the city treated us very well,” said Fernández. Álava had this to say about the city’s cultural panorama: “We saw a lot of self-managed activity (in the area of music, art…). They are very aware of the importance of making culture accessible to society.”

When comparing the Basque and Polish self-publishing scenes, Fernández had this to say “We are at different stages of development (I think that the scene in Wroclaw is younger, at least in terms of photography), and there may be more designers in the Basque Country, but, unfortunately, also less letterpresses. In any case, the motivation is the same in both territories: we love paper, and we see plenty of opportunities for this format either in the Basque Country or in Poland.” Álava agrees on describing the Basque Country as more diverse in self-publishing. “We haven’t found as many cases in Wroclaw, but I would say that the ones we found were high quality, as much in content as in the form,” she explained.

Nevertheless, both territories share another unfortunate reality: the difficulty in making self-publishing a real full-time job. “The everyday tasks zap the energy and the passion for creation. It’s hard to publicize, send and disseminate your work, and to understand billing, go to bookshops and fairs… It’s not fair that artists should spend more time on these tasks than actually creating, is it?” complains Fernández.

The antidote against this difficult situation is none other than determination and working collaboratively: “We must work together to invent new ways to maintain the energy of self-publishing as long as possible.”

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