‘Soft Online’ is a confessional, evasive self-portrait in symbols`

Soft Online

Soft Online, 12 pgs, softonline.me

Judging from the website, Soft Online is both this zine and a wider project or person. It’s website describes the project as  “collage of queer self-portraits” that includes visual art, music and games.  And indeed, the 12 sparse pages of illustrations, collages and poetic fragments are at once confessional and evasive.

Self-actualization seems be the driving theme of the zine, rendered through a pastiche of unspecified symbols and features. A figure sits in a chair, text captioning “at the helm” at the top of the page as they stare at clouds. Another figure walks, the caption betraying a life’s paradox, “I am resentful of and grateful for my dedication to trying.” A vase reads “free me from the bondage of self.” There are hands — hands touching each other, then a hand made of up chain links.

It’s a series of spare, lonely images, which in other circumstances might be banal, but here seem to seek a connection. “I refuse mindfulness,” notes one page. “Look down / see hands / make them / into fists / ready for touching,” reads a poem on another. The figures float alone, but it’s natural and easy for the reader to draw lines between them. The final page of the zine, a series of linked rings, validates this instinct.

These drawings are simple but intentional, trained, with occasional glimpses of digital manipulation. High contrast printing pairs well with the stark, eerily archetypal imagery.

Soft Online seems like a promising force, with their multifaceted, decentralized logic already yielding results worth ruminating over. (Graham Sigurdson)