Good Places to put zines in Taiwan [No.1] – Let’s Zine
Type of place: Exhibition Space/Zine store
Where? Tai Chung [Taiwan]
Where exactly? It’s hard to pin down, they move around a lot.
Here’s what I know from the 45 minutes I spent in their current place:
There are three of them, the owner, the artisan and the woman who does all the marketing/accounting. I think this is accurate…I don’t speak Mandarin, so I relied on their English.
Note: I think the owner has to do military service soon, so I’m not sure what’s gonna happen to Let’s Zine in the next few years…
They don’t focus exclusively on zines, though they do have a decent collection, mostly from other Taiwan artists. Their core concept is to occupy a space [with the owner’s blessing – they get a space for a year or so, the owner gets free renovation], fix it up, produce work to exhibit and generally operate as a space for locals to come and hang out and read and share art or whatever they feel like doing.
Could this be done in other countries?
Probably, but definitely not in Hong Kong. There’s no way an owner would let you have his/her property for free, no matter how shitty it looked.
Hong Kong is a commercial place, not really a community. There are places like Woofer 10 and The Coming Society that aim to connect with the community and get all kinds of people involved in art, but these guys still need to pay ridiculous rent to stay open. I’m pretty sure there are no owners who share their sense of community spirit, though I don’t know every single owner in HK so I could be wrong. [I don’t know any]
Let’s Zine, along with every other zine store or small press, struggles to make enough cash to keep going. They rely on donations, mostly from locals, but also online, and the truth is not many people ever commit to giving cash for something that isn’t well known. It would be nice if more people would.
Can they survive?
Probably. Their core concept seems to help them a lot…they don’t need to pay rent, which is the biggest expense in this kind of operation…the only thing they need money for is to keep printing the zines and art books they produce.
Actually, they make the art books primarily to make cash for the zines, which are more personal. It seems no one wants to pay real money for zines anymore…shame, as they usually have a lot more risk and soul than art books.
How to get there:
First of all, either learn Mandarin to an intermediate level or bring a Chinese friend who can be your translator. The owner of Let’s Zine speaks fairly good English, but people in Taiwan generally don’t. Having said that, I had my girlfriend with me who can speak Mandarin, so I never had to resort to English…meaning I could be wrong. I don’t know. Yeah, I did mostly sit around looking like a shop dummy when we met people…my fault for not knowing the language.
You know, there was an American guy on a Chinese dating show a few weeks ago who could speak fluent Mandarin…he’d been working in Shanghai for a few years, but it was still very impressive…most Westerners I know live in a foreign country and never even try to learn the local language…others just pick up a few words and then bullshit about it when they get back home. Sure, I can speak Japanese, I can speak it great. I’ve met around a hundred and seventy of these types of people in my life…and the internet makes it even worse…never trust an English speaker who says he’s fluent in something online, chances are they’re lying.
Anyway, to get to Let’s Zine…go to Tai Chung station, walk down the main road towards the river, keep walking past the river until you reach a 7-11, turn left then take the first right down an alley and Let’s Zine will be on the corner.
Actually they won’t…they were packing up when I was there on Jan 1st, so they’ll be somewhere different now. Check their FB page to find out where.