With the Boston Hassle Flea right around the corner, I decided to ask a few questions to a vendor I was excited about. CHODO! is a group of friends-turned-art collective/zine making group consisting of, in their own words, Chloe+Jesso+Friends. Found in the intersection of incredible art and poetry, these zines grabbed my attention instantly. I was able to get Chloe and Jesso on the e-mail horn for long enough to ask them a few questions.
Boston Hassle: What first got you into writing zines?
Chloe Yang: In college, writing short stories was the creative outlet that kept my engineering classes from killing me slowly. The early stages of writing a story, for me, feel much more fluid and confused and fun than the later stages, because venturing into the emotional unknown can be really exhilarating. But that process can also be very draining and lonely, and I often find myself falling into certain ways of writing. When Jesso started zine making, she told me about the creativity and flexibility one has as an artist, and most importantly, she told me how fun it is to let go and just make. So we sat down one day and cranked out some zines, in my dim dorm room on a quiet afternoon, my partner asleep on the couch, the clouds outside threatening to rain but never doing so, and the whole thing just felt so otherworldly and fun and freeing, like the early stages of story writing without the loneliness. It felt especially nice to be creative with someone I respect and trust. So–to wrap up this long-winded answer–Jesso got me into writing zines! Honestly, I prefer making zines with her over making them alone.
Jesso Wang: 2 years ago my friendo Megan Fu (@ _fu.bar) went to a workshop Lily Xie (@lolydrows) ran at the New Zineland event in central! And Megan came home and was making them nonstop and also made me make one while chilling in her dorm room one time and it was downhill from there.
BH: Do you remember what your first zine you ever individually made was about?
C: The first zine I ever made was the first draft of “7 Reasons to be Sweaty.” I wrote the zine on cut-up printer paper–the seven reasons, along with little doodled illustrations in pencil–and then Jesso took that derpy copy and ran with it artistically. She kept the reasons verbatim, as well as the layout, but she completely transformed the illustrations and elevated the draft from a goofy little booklet to a more introspective, but still light-hearted, zine. Honestly, I haven’t yet made a zine without Jesso, so this is as close as I come to “individually made” (although, I don’t consider that zine individually made, and I don’t think anyone else should, either).
J: Little single page folded one of drawings of close friends and an odd conversation I overheard in the elevator and a doodle of just the hair of a dude I had a crush on at the time. We sneaked into the theater building to use the color laser copier to make copies of this as well as Sweaty for the first Black Market flea Chloe and I ever tabled, and actually my professor at the time walked in and caught us in the act but was like ‘okaaaaaaay fine’ – which, you know, I’m endlessly grateful for cause that would’ve been a crap start to our first time tabling.
BH: What about zines as media do you love? What makes you feel the need to create?
J: They are so accessible! I feel so inspired rather than intimidated everytime I go to a zine fest. Also they can be so specific and poignant, and, or, gritty and unfinished. It’s all the fun of creating with none of the gatekeeping everywhere else.
C: I don’t think anyone wants to hear me wax poetic, for a second time, about why I like zines, and Jesso’s answer pretty much covers it! I’ll add that I feel the need to create because doing so allows me to delve deeper into my feelings. Through art, I can approach my life somewhat sideways, rather than head-on. I can always say, “Haha, this zine/story/etc. isn’t really about me!” Until I realize at some point that it’s about me, that (not-so-hot take:) all art is inevitably a reflection of the artist…
BH: Your work stands out to me as having both incredible artwork and writing, as well as having both emotional significance without discarding occasional humor (such as 7 reasons to be sweaty, and YEAH off the top of my head.) What leads you to this place?
C: Wow. I wish I could say that we very intentionally go there, but that wouldn’t be true. I can’t speak for “YEAH,” which is a Jesso solo zine, but for the works we make collaboratively, our process is to sit together and hype each other up. Because we trust each other–even if we don’t initially agree on something, we try to be supportive–we end up creating a safe space where ideas can flourish in cool, unexpected ways. Anything goes. We’re not afraid to be stupid or vulnerable around each other, and we’re both pretty introspective, angsty people, so I guess the art we make tends to distill the goofiness and vulnerability that comes with our process.
BH: What media (books, zines, poems, art, films) are you interacting with and excited about right now?
C: The book I’m reading now: Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization by Khiara Bridges (my first ethnography, my first non-fiction read in a while, and super eye-opening!) Books I’ve read in the past year or so and love: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, the Lauren Groff guest editor edition of Ploughshares (Summer 2015, Vol 41, No. 2), Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Movies: Finding Dory made me cry recently. Parasite blew my mind. At risk of sounding basic, I’ve seen The Farewell three times now, and I never fail to cry at the end.
J: My dayjob right now is tattooing, so I guess that, but I’m feeling a bit creatively burnt on that and trying to pivot back to illustration and comics right now! Switching to part time tattooing in the new year and hoping to spend more time on making drawings. Oh, went to this big comic arts fest in brooklyn a few weeks ago and got really boggled by all the lovely kinds of printing – I really want to learn/make risograph prints! Been listening to a lot of guqin music also, I’m trying to take lessons haha.
BH: What are some of your favorite zines and why?
J: “Jeff Bezos is feeling snacky”.
C: “Snacky is feeling Jeff Bezos.” (Jk, not a real zine, to the best of my knowledge.) I love Mooneaters (@mooneaterscollective)–self-described “art and media platform for APIA queer narratives.” They do really wonderful, thoughtful work! Jesso introduced me to their zines last year.
BH: What would you say to two novice zine makers as advice for their first zine?
C: We didn’t know what we were doing! We still don’t! It’s okay if you don’t either! Just have fun. Whenever someone gives me that piece of advice, “Just have fun,” I’m always like, “Gee, thanks, so helpful.” But seriously–if you’re having fun, enjoying the process, introspecting, putting yourself into your work, your audience will be able to tell. Which reminds me of another piece of advice: try not to fixate on what a potential audience might think. I find that the art I make for myself, without thinking of impressing others/looking stupid etc., is often the art that others resonate with most.
J: L o l idontknowhatimdoingbutitsoknooneknowswhattheyredoinghaveatit
BH: What are you generally excited about in the future?
J: …sleep haha. Been looking forward to this flea for a sec! My secret plan for when my apartment lease ends next fall is to buy a subaru outback and do a bit a cross country driving tattoo trip in lots of cities I haven’t been to, and also maybe just live+paint out of it indefinitely nomadically. We’ll see.
C: Also sleep. Also this flea! Also, I just bought a new coat online, to replace the one I’ve been wearing since middle school. I can’t wait for it to arrive. I’m going to put it on as soon as I get it and channel my inner marshmallow as I strut around in winter gear all day.
BH: Is there anything else you would like to talk about that I didn’t ask?
J: Please… sign up to vote in primaries… No matter how you’re voting. Also this instagram is very important: @squishin_cats
C: I will snap to Jesso’s message of civic duty. See you at the flea! Come say hello! We are the least scary people ever–we literally wrote a zine about being sweaty (but not in a cool way, in a derpy way).