art zine, S.K. Hughes, Bethany G.L., Lauren Goodman, Colin MacLeod, Emily Scherzinger, and Nate Wolfe (ed.), 99pgs, milkweedzine.com, $17
This full-colour, perfect-bound erotic zine dedicates its third issue to content that exists “at the nexus of social media, the self, and sex.” An omnisexual collection, Milkweed’s contributions take the form of written pieces, photos, and visual art.
Let’s start with the writing: in “Polyglamourous,” Karen Knox meditates on an erotically charged adolescent memory that followed her into adulthood. In “Between Anonymity and Intimacy…,” Fan Wu meditates on power and identity politics in the bathhouse scene. And in “Truthless,” Andrea Werhun subverts the dodgy genre of online escort reviews by turning it around and reviewing the john.
Meanwhile, the photos range from arty, faceless, nude selfies to performative self-portraits, to more conventional black and white photo essays that would seem timeless without the conspicuous appearance of a smartphone. This gleaming piece of consumer technology is an important cue for the reader: this zine is concerned with power and the gaze. Consider Lauren Fournier’s lament when she discovers that her favourite Berlin photobooth is now under 24-hour video surveillance: “Now we have the panopticon and my half-conscious willingness to regulate accordingly.” Compare that with Fan Wu’s bathhouse mantra, “Do not look at yourself being looked at. Do not think about the bad, the whitewashed, politics of your desire.” I feel this kind of convergence is the result of a really strong curation, to use an occasionally abused term.
Finally, there are the illustrations, collages and paintings. All are great, but Kayla Polan’s paintings stand out. These playful canvasses combine the images of BDSM with square domestic scenes to create a funny and subversive attempt at normalizing bondage.
All in all, Milkweed succeeds with a surprising and perceptive take on its stated goal of exploring the erotic gaze, diving into philosophy, but not forgetting how to have fun in the process.