FKA Twigs recently published the first edition of her new Zine Avant Garden on Instagram. Launched in October 2017 issue one is a 10-page ‘Instazine’ titled Roots. Shock. Beauty, that presents innovative braided hairstyles modelled by FKA Twigs and her friends. It takes advantage of the multiple upload function and swipeable carousel that was launched by the App in February 2017 that allows you to combine up to 10 photos and videos in one post and swipe through to see them all.
Avant Garden cleverly uses the slide carousel to allow the images to flow seamlessly across the digital pages creating a continuous sequence of page layouts. FKA Twigs’ cover portrait morphs into a comb that teases across the screen to reveal head-shots of models with beautiful braided hair. The photoshoots inspired by black barber shop posters are woven together with handwritten text and illustrations, while the layouts playfully spill out over the edge of each ‘page’ culminating in a 180° shot of the back of Twigs' head. Issue 1 has been made in collaboration with FKA Twigs and a small team of designers, editors, stylists and photographers including Suzannah Pettigrew and Matt de Jong.
“It’s a way for me to create on a low budget again, I’ve come from a very punk way of working. All my early music videos were just my friends setting up in my living room. I’m aiming to do one a month like a normal publication, maybe sometimes I’ll do more, sometimes I’ll do less.
I think for me it’s a way for me to express myself without any rules and guidelines” FKA Twiggs, Dazed Digital
The zine is an inspiring use of Instagram as a publishing tool, a publication space and as a distribution site. By conceptually reimagining this online space as a zine she has opened up the possibility of what a zine can be and bought a well loved format into the 21st century, and pushed the parameters of what can be placed on the Instagram platform.
'Rather than posting selfies or pictures of your cups of coffee or avocado toast, I thought it would be exciting to see people using it in more of a creative way to express themselves.” FKA Twiggs, Dazed Digital
Digital zines have made use of blogs, PDFs and mailing lists to create and share content and Instagram has been used a publishing platform before. W published a magazine using Instagram in 2015 to promote Ballantines Whisky. Designed by Work Club, each article existed as a grid of images and the Instazine could be read by scrolling through Instagram on your smartphone revealing horizontal stories and hidden suprises within individual posts. Digital Zine makers still have to consider how they reach their audience. The Instagram platform that combines of a way to uploaded a multiple page post that can instantly read and shared by up to thousands of followers is attractive.
A few doubters question whether an image led sequence of images can be called a zine or magazine, but Twigs has made a publication very much in the style of contemporary zine-makers such as Nieves who have been using the 16 printed page format for illustration and photography zines since 2001.
The concept of creating a publication using a sequence of images placed into a series of spaces that could then be talked in terms of a book is reminiscent of the writing of artist Ulises Carrión who declared in his artist book manifesto The New Art of Making Books that ''A book is a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment - a book is also a sequence of moments’. Ulises Carrión, 1975
FKA Twiggs told Dazed Digital ‘ I would love to make it into a physical thing eventually, or it can be put in a gallery, or it can be on a website’
A printed AvantGarden could be imagined as a Leporello, a printed book folded into an accordion-pleat style, also sometimes known as a concertina fold that can be opened up to create a scroll. Leporellos are often used as a way of telling a story, or representing the passing of time, a journey or a measurement of space.
Nieves have published several Leporellos of the work of illustrator Saul Steinberg. '4 Leporellos', Saul Sternberg, Published by Nieves, 2014 and ‘The Line’ reproduce his 10-metre line drawings from the wall of the Children’s Labrythinth at the 1954 Triennial in Milan into a fold-out concertina book.
The Leporello format has a tradition in the history of artist books. Yoshikazu Suzuki & Kimura Shohachi published Ginza Kaiwai/Ginza Haccho, a fold-out photo record of Tokyo's Ginza district which preceded Ed Ruscha's seminal 1966 self-published photobook Every Building on the Sunset Strip. The 25-foot long accordion-folded book has two continuous photographic views created by sequentially shooting each architectural facade on both the North and South sides of Los Angeles Sunset Strip. Ruscha was interesting in exploring new formats for artist books as well opening up the genre to the possibilities of mass-production and distribution. He wanted his books to be available to a large audiences to experience in everyday life.
The reception of AvantGarden, with 44,500 likes on Twigs' Instagram as of 8 November 2017 has been overwhelmingly positive. The reach of this small, experimental publication is huge and will surely inspire the use of this platform as a publishing space for many more to follow.