Zines Versus the State was the last in a series of collaborative workshops, talks and discussions that constituted an integral part of Navine G. Dossos: There Is No Alternative at The Showroom. Over the course of eight weeks, these events created new platforms for public debate around Prevent, the UK government’s contested counter-terrorism strategy.
Since its inception in 2004 and deployment across schools, universities and hospitals in the UK, Prevent has been the most controversial policy within the government’s approach to counter-terrorism. There Is No Alternative aimed to open a space for reflection and collaborative processes of research in response to the increasing urgencies surrounding Prevent. For the duration of the project, The Showroom became a site of production, organisation and exchange, taking the visual narratives surrounding Prevent as the point of departure through which to reconsider the policy and the role it plays in society today; its psychological consequences and curtailments of freedom of expression.
In this context artist, writer, activist and curator Hamja Ahsan led a zine-making workshop in response to Navine G. Dossos’ research archive, followed by a talk on the histories and contemporary urgencies surrounding DIY cultures and zines at the intersection of art and activism.
How do zines, as small-circulation, hand-made and self-published work, create spaces of solidarity? How can DIY communities collectively counteract stigma? What are the histories of zine-making in the context of occupations, resistance and protest movements internationally?
A selection of Hamja’s zine collection was available to browse in the space on the day. The collection has been built over the past twenty-five years; featuring zines addressing topics from Islamophobia, to race inequality, state crime, policing, prisons and Hillsborough justice. There were zines from Khidr Collective, Bradical, OOMK and many more.
Photocopy, cut up, remix and re-examine the documents in the There Is No Alternative archive to produce zines in response to Prevent.
The aim of the workshop was to open up creative and critical responses to the archive. A DIY process of selecting, photocopying, cutting and re-compiling the research documents into new formats as handmade zines offered an opportunity to cut through the content of the core Prevent policy documents, and collage these fragments into new configurations.
Zines Versus the State a talk by Hamja Ahsan followed by a conversation with Navine G. Dossos.
Hamja Ahsan's talk addressed ways of generating grass roots networks of support and strategies for survival as modes of resistance to dominant narratives. In conversation with Navine G. Dossos, Hamja also discussed his award-winning book Shy Radicals: Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert, its relation to Prevent and the domestic War on Terror.
Hamja Ahsan is an artist, writer, activist and curator based in London. He is the author of the book Shy Radicals: Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert (published by Book Works, 2017 / Third Edition, 2019). He was recently awarded the Grand Prize at the Thirty-Third Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts 2019 for his current exhibition Aspergistan Referendum based on this book. He was shortlisted for the Liberty Human Rights Award for campaigns on extradition and detention without trial under the War on Terror utilising art and film. His recent writing was anthologised in No Colour Bar: Black Art in Action 1960-1990. He has presented projects at PS1 MOMA, at the New York Art book fair, Tate Modern, Gwangju Biennale, Staedelschule in Frankfurt, Shaanakht Festival, Pakistan and Shilpa Academy, Bangladesh.
Hamja’s practice encompasses conceptual writing, building archives, performance, video, sound and making zines. In 2013 Hamja founded the DIY Cultures, an annual day-long festival of creative activism and independent publishing including zines, artist books and comics alongside exhibitions, film screenings and talks; which he continues to co-curate.
Image: Hamja Ahsan and Navine G. Dossos, Zines Versus the State, 2019. Image courtesy of The Showroom