Ghost Town Denizens are born of the initial conception and eventual detritus. Composed of drawings and notes and chicken scratch, these booklets are made of stunted stuff, of orphans far and away from a larger context yet persistent in their interest, rigor, and repetition.
This observation was enough of an impetus to bring illustrations and scrawls about in a zine format; while stillborn, a wide variety of linework, character, emotion, and situations exist within them and are worth speaking to, irrespective of their ephemeral nature in print or otherwise.
A stylistic shift soon arrived, in which the title/numbering treatment was simplified, images overflowed to the back of the page, and the illustrations were picked more specifically (connecting distinct moments in time together based on sensation versus mechanical procedure). This is the initial inkling of more consistent themes from zine to zine. The question of “how many should be printed?” and “how far into the future should these be reprinted?” also reared itself into view.
Scraps of all kinds had a place to rest, but I, as the ‘artist,’ was at risk of being beholden to these sentimental yokes.
Initially, I thought of this shift as an opportunity to riff from set to set with a refreshed aesthetic wrapper of font choices and title arrangements. This trajectory, however, didn’t account for contents inside; numbers tick up, the name reiterates itself, yet the content continues to be black and white and bleak all over. In hindsight, this dissection feels compelled by formalist tendrils, perpetually sullied by the specificity, vague contexts, and digital/copying approaches employed.
Re-presenting certainly ‘acknowledges’, but GTD hasn’t yet done the work of properly… playing with these moments.
At this point, the presentation and the overall encounter with these booklets came to the fore. While functional, issues emerged quite readily given the form factor and content of the zines. For instance, each zine contains unique elements, yet they are ubiquitous in style and scale. The visitor experience, too, was complicated by ‘the hunch’ (folks had no fulcrum to gauge their intrigue beyond visual interest) and a ‘collect them all’ mentality (which necessitates a primal sort of populist/exclusivity dynamic that I didn’t want to leave unchallenged).
With materials aplenty, the package rose to prominence. It obscures the elements that were originally so important (the series title and numbering system, both of which are ideally acknowledged behind the scenes by moi), replacing the anxious accruing with a surprise inclination. “What you get is what you get!" after all, and to get a guaranteed allotment of zines means a diverse set of experiences for the reader and a systematized production for the maker.
This was the solution: the first batch of zines (12 issues) were split into 2 distinct groups (1-6 and 7-12), and those works were mixed and matched into trios. With 3 zines per package, a total of 20 packs could account for the all iterations in short order. A paperfolding technique was utilized to add a minimalist flourish (and to go full circle by acknowledging generosity with serendipitous creation; this folding technique was shared by a friend only a few months prior).
The serendipity throughout this process keeps me trucking! Generosity funnels into current work; material from yesteryear finds it’s purpose; interests coalesce in ways unexpected ways, oftentimes in the shape of technique and process instead of in purely visual terms. The package design makes room for all manner of methods and sentiments!
Strangely enough, the paperfolding was sequentially a ‘backstep’ in regards to form. These earlier zines were already printed, and the paper package emerged to fit them. This question wouldn’t have been raised if not for the package design that came first, an actual container, and that container wouldn’t have been considered if not for the continued reassessment of the zine form factor.
The folding technique continues to please (it is both simple to print and has an excellent limiter in terms of page count), yet the size was beginning to feel generic. I was brought up on an 11” x 7” printing size, due to it conferring so readily to a tabloid sheet. That sheet, however, begins to feel a bit arbitrary after repeated runs to the copy shop; worse yet, those same copy shops have the means to print at a variety of scales from the outset, so settling for a single paper-size out of habit was simultaneously lax and less economical with each and every issue.
So on the formatting side of things, I reduced the page dimensions by a significant percentage and printed and trimmed from a significantly smaller page (thus reducing the cost a tad). On a conceptual level, this tiny package begin to allude to a certain flavor of book reading. They are much more intimate, easily concealed, and demand a close eye and ear in order to take in the minute details. Those crisp effects are compounded by lacking series titles or numerals; these are replaced with titles that more readily correspond to the contents that follow (those contents, too, more readily selected to cohabitate with the title).
In a way, these books are returning to the sketchbook root. Open, slightly aloof to a grander scheme yet not shy to reoccurring themes or impulses, destined for a treasure chest, storage unit, reliquary or coffin.
Hence the container! A box by another name, its a form reconsidered as a result of prior explorations and, again, generosity. These explorations extend from my academic pursuits, oftentimes unintentionally, where subject matter didn’t melt away into abstraction or some esoteric concept, but instead was offset by a tactile, 3D dilemma for situating them. While these thoughts were more didactic in grad school (“I need to lose the subject in favor of the room in which it finds itself in!”), the role of the box or container was a subtle consistency since childhood.
The generosity, quite simply, was completely material; one man’s scrap, shared instead of tossed, became an essential component.
At which point we reach our current juncture: the latest cycle of GTD introduces a smaller form factor, alongside which exists both a plywood container and a digital component. The container is made from Baltic birch ply, square dowels, the points of T-Pins and a smooth vinyl finish on top. The QR code, rather than grant access to the zine format itself, includes every image in the particular container set.
There are 15 sets, each including a QR code, 2 zines, and the box container that holds them. The zine duo is distinct from box to box; no two hold the same combination.