Now Featuring Victoria Yee Howe

Victoria Yee Howe is an insider in the world of outsiders.  Making zines, recordings, tattoos, pop up shops and more, her practice brings brief light into worlds that are secretive and obscure. Not a documentarian, Howe is a participant, responding to experiences and organizing new ones.

TO view our limited edition zine and fabric by the yard go HERE.

Screen shot 2013-07-19 at 1.27.49 PM

 

MH: Can you talk about the range of works you make… your work ranges from recordings to zines to, in this editing for LPP, fabric?

VYH: I enjoy doings lots of different things, so I usually have a hard time categorizing myself or answering this question briefly! I have many interests, have worked many different jobs, and have lived in many places, so there isn’t really a short answer; these experiences influence everything I do. I’ve published several zines and photo books, made field recordings, opened pop-up stores and galleries, organized tattoo shows, and programmed many other events.

When I first moved to New York I wanted to try something different and worked briefly as a chef, but then I quit to open a secret restaurant out of my apartment. Two summers ago I drove a truck around New York with a zine shop and art gallery in the back. Most recently I returned from Russia, where I opened a bookstore as part of a satellite program for Family Business, a gallery here in New York, and Italy where I was launching a magazine I published for the Venice Biennale with one of my best friends. I get bored easily and the worst feeling in the world to me is the feeling of being stagnant.

Done Did Cum Came, zine about the sex industry, 2010

Done Did Cum Came, zine about the sex industry, 2010

Let's Get Lost #1 / Freight Train Diary, a train hopping zine and field recording CD, June 2011

Let’s Get Lost #1 / Freight Train Diary, a train hopping zine and
field recording CD, June 2011

Megabodega, pop-up zine, art book store and event series Howe curated at Family Business, June/July 2012

Megabodega, pop-up zine, art book store and event series Howe curated
at Family Business, June/July 2012

Whatever Forever, ten artist tattoo show at Alldayeveryday, December 2012

Whatever Forever, ten artist tattoo show at Alldayeveryday, December 2012

MH: A couple of your zines deal with train hopping and convey images of the American landscape that are both bleak and uplifting. Are the photos your own and if so, what was it like making those trips… and if not, how did you collect them?

VYH: I started hopping trains when I was 19 and became obsessed with it – the freedom of movement, the secretive culture around it, its outsider art and its history. It’s a very American style of travel that has been overly romanticized, but it wouldn’t be honest to say that the stereotypes surrounding it don’t attract me, too. Some of the most depressing and physically challenging experiences I’ve ever had have been on train hopping trips I’ve taken, and it’s easy to look back on that with nostalgia when your memories all start to turn soft-focus.

I Like Disappearing, photo zine with Swampy, June 2012

I Like Disappearing, photo zine with Swampy, June 2012

Trainhopping, Canada

Trainhopping, Canada

On my first trip in Canada I brought a super 8 camera and a small minidisc player and microphone. Someone I worked with was a contributor on NPR and he helped me figure out how it all worked. It was sort of a disastrous trip – my two friends and I spent most of the time dancing next to train tracks in bikinis, working on our tans and tagging, which was great! But then we almost got deported. Since then I’ve always brought a camera and recording equipment with me on trips. So much of what you see hopping trains is secret, undercover, unseen – sometimes I don’t believe things I experienced were even real until I look at the photos or read through journals. Now that I live in New York I don’t have time to go that often anymore, but when I do I always try to document everything as much as possible. When I am hopping trains I am a different person that I try to keep separate from the more ’straight’ part of me that most people I know see. Apart from my zines, it isn’t something I usually like to talk about with people outside of the train hopping community.

train2

MH: And how did you go about making the zine for LPP?

VYH: A couple months ago I started designing my own fabric, with the intention of digitally printing it and upholstering some furniture I made, and making temporary tattoos out of the images. I had been collecting random pictures for a while but when I started to lay them out I thought they all looked nice together. The zine for LPP sort of became an extension of this fabric and tattoo project.

I Like Disappearing, photo zine with Swampy, June 2012

I Like Disappearing, photo zine with Swampy, June 2012

MH: What went into making this LPP fabric edition?  Are you doing anything in particular with fabric yourself?

VYH: I’m not sure yet. One of my last normal, 9-to-5 kind of jobs was working as a professional seamstress and designer, sewing and drafting patterns all day, but I did it so much I got burnt out on it. The only college courses I ever took were to study apparel design, before I dropped out. But I just got a new sewing machine, so I’ve been making a lot more things lately. Over the past month I have been making all of my own clothes.

Victoria Yee Howe, top and shorts self-designed and sewn

Victoria Yee Howe, top and shorts self-designed and sewn

Digitally printing fabric has been a trend over the last few years and although it used to be expensive, now it’s relatively easy to design fabric with graphics that you can’t reproduce by yourself with screenprinting. I really like the idea of using math or strategic cuts and folds to transform a flat object into something 3D, and with fabric there is a lot of possibility to make many different things simply. In a way the fabric is like an interactive edition.

Tamizdat, New Holland, Russia, May/June 2013

Tamizdat, New Holland, Russia, May/June 2013

Tamizdat, New Holland, Russia, May/June 2013

Tamizdat, New Holland, Russia, May/June 2013

MH: Tell me about your approach to programming and curating.  What kinds of project attract you?  What are some of your favorite past projects?

VYH: I love collaborations and group shows, unexpected pairings of different people or using traditional spaces in new ways. I’ve done a lot of projects based around publishing but I’m more attracted to the idea of exposing new work to new audiences in general. I suppose most curators would say they have the same motive, but I find that many shows or projects are repetitive or just not presented in an exciting way. I’m not saying that everything I do is amazing or different, but exposing outsider or underground art to a wider audience, or creating fleeting, temporary environments or experiences where people are introduced to something new – this is what’s exciting to me and the goal for all my projects.

The Italian Job, magazine published Maria Garcia-Luben Iban for the 55th Venice Biennale. Including a 7" record and temporary tattoos designed in collaboration with Urs Fischer, Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic, Lawrence Weiner, and Toilet Paper Magazine

The Italian Job, magazine published Maria Garcia-Luben Iban for the 55th Venice Biennale. Including a 7″ record and temporary tattoos designed in collaboration with Urs Fischer, Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic, Lawrence Weiner, and Toilet Paper Magazine

Over the last year I have opened two pop-up art book stores in New York and in Russia, made a photo book with my friend Swampy, a graffiti artist based in Oakland, published a magazine for the Venice Biennale (with each issue including a 7″ record and temporary tattoos by Ai Weiwei, Urs Fischer, Toilet Paper Magazine, Lawrence Weiner and Marina Abramovic), and organized a group tattoo show, where ten artists personally drew permanent tattoos of their own art onto anyone that wished to participate. For a while I also had a 1-800 number that anyone could call to hear a different recording by a different artist everyday.

Some projects I’m working on now involve moniker art and railroad culture, more tattooing, and also starting a new magazine, hopefully within the next year. I travel a lot and would love to do more work in both Hong Kong and Paris. I like to be busy and when I’m not working I start to get anxiety.

Howe tattooing a friend

Howe tattooing a friend

MH: What zines have been most influential for you in the past and what zines/zinemakers are you following closely right now?

VYH: When I was really young some of the first zines I loved were made by Stacy Wakefield and Amber Gayle, two sisters that ran a publishing company called Evil Twin Publications. Each issue or book they made covered a new theme or played with a different format. There was one that you literally had to cut open with scissors before you could read it, and unfolding it felt like unwrapping a present. My first real job was managing a small press library and after seeing literally thousands of zines it’s easy for them to start to look all the same to me, and it’s harder to be impressed…maybe that sounds cynical but it makes the special ones I find more precious. Stacy and Amber started out very simply but even today they continue to publish books and Stacy does a lot of great design work for D.A.P. and other publications I like.

One of my favorite zines being published right now is made by my friend Pat McCarthy, called ‘Born to Kill Fanzine’. Pat rides a scrappy little motorbike around New York every summer with a little hot plate rigged on the back, and he parks in front of art galleries and sells made-to-order grilled cheese sandwiches for $1. Pat also keeps pigeons on his roof in Brooklyn and sometimes there’s an egg-and-cheese special. Pat just traveled with his bike to Marseille, France for a mobile residency, selling sandwiches in the French countryside.

Even though I work with publications a lot and would love to keep making magazines, ultimately I enjoy them because they are just efficient platforms for presenting an idea or collection of ideas to a mass audience. Whether that platform takes the shape of a magazine or an exhibition or a show, in the end I am more interested in how an idea comes across, the overall spirit of the presentation and what leaves me feeling excited.

train

MH: What do your field recordings sound like?  Can you describe one? Or show me where I can hear one online?  What are you listening for when you record?

VYH: I think they sound different to different people. To me, they’re loud, abrasive, unpleasant. It’s not something I ever want to listen to at home. When I’m actually hearing it live it’s a different story – the noise and vibration of the train are inescapable and you have to accept them. After awhile it starts to sound monotonous, even though it is deafening, and you shouldn’t entirely block it out because different sounds give you clues about where you’re going or potential problems. Any train hopper worth their salt needs to be able to identify the way air brakes sound or the ‘whoosh’ of an engine being disconnected. Or the sound of a worker’s boots approaching on ballast.

train2

On the other hand I’ve had different people write to me and tell me that they like to listen to the field recordings I’ve made on their iPod or play them when they’re trying to relax. Which is funny but kind of sweet, too.

0 comments

There are no comments yet...

Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment