Collect them, produce them, exchange them: zines are still loved all over the world as a communication tool that anyone can easily reach as long as you are determined and passionate about them. With that level of freedom as their weapon, Zurich-based independent publishing company “innen” has been releasing many unconventional works. innen’s publisher Aaron Fabian takes pride in his original and unique selection, featuring artists and fashion designers from different genres, from influential figures to up-and-coming young talents, such as Helmut Lang and Vivienne Westwood, to actress Chloe Sevigny.
For this article, Aaron chose Tokyo-based graphic designer Hiroshi Iguchi as his conversation partner. After seeing his artwork from his collection “CULT JAM (2009),” Aaron contacted him, and they naturally hit it off. This summer, he started the “innen Japan” project through TOKYO CULTUART by BEAMS, planning to release an issue per month featuring carefully selected artists. I asked Aaron and Hiroshi to share seven volumes from innen they particularly liked, and by listening to their conversation, I even found out the original way zines were supposed to be enjoyed.
Holes / Hiroshi Iguchi
Hiroshi Iguchi: “Holes” is a broad interpretation of one of the pieces contained in “BIG VALUE DUB,” a collection of works in various styles based on a single concept, which was first released on innen in 2005. I have been working on this dot-based technique for over ten years, but this was the first time a whole anthology featured only this style.
Aaron Fabian: I like this dotted style. I have no idea how it’s drawn, but it’s super cool.
Hiroshi: It took a lot of time to hand-pick the good ones, but it was very important to me. I guess it felt like selecting the songs for a DJ mix.
Aaron: When I’m making the layout, I also value the story and flow. I’m usually in charge of the zine’s layout, but in Hiroshi’s case, I just print it at the end. It’s because I really believe in you.
Hiroshi: It’s a profoundly memorable zine for me. Thank you for the good opportunity.
Aaron: It’s me that should be thanking you.
Hiroshi: Ehron’s (Aaron’s nickname) style is a little different in texture from mine, but I feel like our attitude is similar.
Aaron: Haha! Yeah? Hiroshi has a very particular taste, and above anything else, it’s fun to work with him.
If I see You in My Dreams / Joji Nakamura
Aaron: I’d say it’s the first memorable volume of “innen Japan.” I met Joji once or twice at the Tokyo Art Book Fair last year. His artwork is simple and interesting; the painting is naive but colorful.
Hiroshi: I like the primitive dynamism of Joji-Kun’s work.
Aaron: I’m happy that Hiroshi always introduces me to Japanese artists I didn’t know about, like Joji. With “innen Japan,” we put our best efforts into research, focusing on real and high-quality art. At the end of the day, we go for what we like and enjoy, though.
Hiroshi: We didn’t choose Joji-Kun because we’re on good terms, but rather because I’m hoping it becomes a good influence on innen. So, if I think Ehron might like an artist, I’ll suggest them to him, even if I’ve never met them in person. Right, I just went to see Joji-Kun’s exhibition, where he released his piece for “innen Japan” too; it was very good. I especially liked the piece on the last page (picture of a Mohican).
Aaron: It’s a good ending, right?
Sari (Dogod #3) / Akiko Watanabe
Aaron: This is the third work in the “Dogod” series by Berlin-based photographer Akiko Watanabe. She’s been a friend of mine since I met her in Berlin eleven years ago, and she started this series ten years ago. Rather than just art, this zine uses dogs to show personal, family-like experiences. The previous two entries of this series presented a collection of various dogs, but this time it focuses on Sari, Akiko’s beloved dog. I’ve never met Sari, but they’re really cute.
Hiroshi: I also loved it since I lived with three dogs so far. Although, Fufu, my Maltese, used to get mad at me and bite me on the nose (laughs). The order of authority in my family used to be my parents, Fufu, and then me and my siblings (laughs). When I was the only one at home, Fufu would really fawn on me, but as soon as my mom would come home, she would suddenly start barking at me. Girls’ feelings are so complicated (laughs).
Aaron: Haha! That’s funny. I also love dogs; I’ve had two so far. The previous one was my ex’s family’s dog, Rino. It was a mixed dog, so cute. By the way, I like dogs better than cats. Aren’t dogs more honest? If I had a cat, the bed would be covered with hair, and the furniture would be all scratched.
Hiroshi: Yeah, dogs are important to us.
The Edge of Hell / Sean Pablo
Aaron: I wanted to make a zine with NY skater Sean Pablo, so we made this. I’ve put together all the photos of his travels, personal life, and friends that he sent me. I was in charge of the layout, and Supreme helped us print it, although they didn’t put their logo in it.
Hiroshi: It’s so “innen.” I thought it was exactly the kind of atmosphere that Ehron likes.
Aaron: It connects to DIY and youth culture. Streetwear, skaters, music, and graffiti, these cultures are part of my origins too. I used to skate back in the days, but I don’t anymore. Sometimes I snowboard, I guess. Recently I’ve been swimming every day from Monday to Friday; I’m like a dolphin. But I haven’t been able to swim since the period of self-quarantine started.
Hiroshi: I admired Mike Vallely when he was under Powell Peralta, but I wasn’t very good myself. But I loved drawing, so I was really influenced by the graphics on skateboard decks and used to copy them a lot. Thinking about it, I often used to draw skulls. There are some pieces with skulls in “BIG VALUE DUB.” I also like them for their philosophical meaning. Oh yeah, last Saturday, I received a pint glass with the Powell Peralta logo on it from my senior from SKATETHING.
Aaron: Woah, that’s cool!
Selected Works From 2001 To 2009 / Dash Show
Aaron: This is the second zine from a collection of works by American artist Dash Snow. We co-published it with “Nieves,” another independent publisher based in Zurich. He passed away in 2009, but I got the copyrights for his installations and photos from the CFA gallery in Berlin to collect them. I’ve never met him in person, but I heard from a common friend in NY that he was a pretty radical person. The first edition was white, so for the second edition, I went for a punk-ish red.
Hiroshi: I love his works too.
Aaron: The first time I saw his works was around ten years ago. He was also producing his zine. zines are more exclusive and unique than books. Production and shipping costs are affordable, and it’s easier and faster to sell and spread than books, right?
Hiroshi: It feels as affordable as a sticker or a badge.
Aaron: Do you remember 90’s basketball cards? Every card is different, and sometimes you can find rare ones. It’s the same as zine culture. Each has its own characteristic, and when they’re sold out, their value goes up. More than anything else, it makes you want to collect them, right?
Hiroshi: I love Topps trading cards. Yeah, I understand how it makes you want to collect them.
I am a Blue Whale / Joe Roberts
Aaron: San Francisco-based artist Joe Roberts’ second piece. He’s a great artist who also designs for GX1000, a skateboard crew/label based in San Francisco.
Hiroshi: His style is nice. He uses motifs like Ninja Turtles and the Disney movie “Fantasia” for his art. Wait, I should have this zine somewhere. Let me look for it.
Aaron: I met Joe in Zurich last year. He loves nature and was hiking around Switzerland at the time. That’s why you can see the element of nature in his works, as well as Mickey Mouse doing LSD and drugs, Ninja Turtles eating pizza, etc.
Hiroshi: I found it (inside a mountain of zines). Every time Ehron comes to Japan, he brings a lot of zines in his hand-carry bag. At book fairs, his suitcase is always full.
Aaron: I wonder how much stuff I sent after last year’s Tokyo Art Book Fair. I think it was more than 100 kilos. I wanted to come back to Japan in November this year too, but it’s canceled due to the pandemic. Do you remember when we went to “Grand Fathers” together?
Hiroshi: Oh, that mellow rock bar in Shibuya. You really like that place, especially those big, triangular ashtrays they had there. The next day, I found it on Yahoo! Auctions and sent it to you.
Aaron: Yes, that one! Wait for a second! (Goes to get an ashtray) Right now, I only have this banana-shaped one. I have the triangular one at home, but they’re actually made by the same company. Izakayas were fun too. Hiroshi is the best guide.
Hiroshi: Last time we had a home party at Kensei Yabuno’s, our friend who released his zine through innen. Didn’t you make a lot of Japanese friends?
Aaron: Yeah. I also wanted to do something with Hiroshi for my gallery this year, but I guess it’ll be postponed too.
Hiroshi: It’s a little hard this year, but I want to make it happen next year.
efflorescence / VIRGIL ABLOH™
Aaron: It’s a zine made by Virgil Abloh, “Off-White” designer, currently working as the men’s’ artistic director for Louis Vuitton. I love his fashion, and I thought it’d be interesting to produce a zine with him. I don’t know him directly, but I contacted him through a friend. It’s a collection of exclusive photos of his studio.
Hiroshi: Looking at his work, I feel like he knows a lot of universally good things. I met him only once, at a party four years ago. Just by coincidence, he was going to DJ right after me, but I don’t think he remembers that (laughs).
Aaron: Huh, I didn’t know that. That’s cool! I guess it’s pretty common to connect through culture.