Do You Want us Here or Not?
— Shannon Finnegan
Self Published 2017 ︎ See Artist’s Website
Interview by Hannah Coleman
with Shannon Finnegan
December of 2019:
with Shannon Finnegan
December of 2019:
H: Well, I think a great place to start would be, when and how did you learn about zine making?
S: I grew up in the Bay area and zines were just kind of like, around. Then in college, I studied printmaking and book making, but then I think I realized that I don’t always want a super high level of preciousness and craft around things and so then kind of looked towards zine making as a model for what that is. I am a little ambivalent about the term. I don’t think I understand the term zines super well. My friend Breanne Trammell was talking to me about like zines as counter cultural, and so when she does zine making with her students she gives them the option of calling it a zine or a booklet. So, for me, depending on the project some feel more like booklets, though this one feels a bit more like a zine.
H: Yeah absolutely, and that all leads perfectly to my next question, which is, can you talk about the genesis of Do You Even Want Us Here? And perhaps why you choose to make it in this format?
S: So the project comes from my experience of museums, I feel like those are really hard spaces for my body and the project was kinda sparked by a particularly egregious visit to MoMa in New York. Where really, it’s silly how few benches there were there. When I first thought of the idea I just had all these drawings, and those felt like a really good way of communicating what I was talking about. I’ve since made physical benches but I think at the time I was just like the drawings really captures this pretty well so how can I circulate this idea, or set of ideas. And I love those one page zines because they’re so easy to make and mail and so I just made a bunch of them in order to kind of mark that idea. Then I was able to send them out to people, and give them to friends, so I felt very loose about tossing them out into the world.
H: I remember you maybe posted about it on your instagram too, and so you kind of used your personal community to circulate it. Is that largely how you got them out?
S: Yeah, I don’t have any official distribution channels, and also, I love mailing things. I made it as a way of marking the idea and then I knew I just wanted people to have them and that felt like the easiest way to just kinda like get them out there.
And yeah, I think also, thinking about friends, or acquaintances who work in museum spaces - I was also thinking about it as a potential resources for them. My friend Hallie had it up in her office when I visited her at the Getty, so thinking about how it might also support people who are already trying to do that [accessibility] work within those spaces.
H: Totally. You have since made a second zine in this series - can you talk a bit about that second edition?
S: Yes, so from thinking about museum spaces I just started to think more about moving through the city. Subway spaces, the way that street spaces and parks are designed. And those are often very hostile environments, obviously like connected to policies to discourage people who are homeless - and I don’t know as much about that dimension of it, but it feels like a very classed and racialized set of policies. I definitely notice it in the city when I move through wealthier neighborhoods there’s more seating for sitting and rest, but also those are sometimes highly monitored. Anyway, I found myself thinking about the importance of having space to rest in the city, again, rooted in my own embodied experience of like, when I can sit on the subway platform, that makes a big difference in my day. And realizing that some of the things I had been thinking about in museum spaces also make sense in a city context. So I began generating new text around that, so like one of the ones in the second edition is like “it was hard to get here, sit if you agree” or “my commute involves too much standing, sit if you agree.” It was a way of iterating the project and thinking through what a set of those benches might look like for a city space.
H: You’ve since made a couple physical versions and sculptures of these original drawings, I was wondering if you’ve ever had any children interact with these works - or how you think children might engage with the work that you’re making?
S: I can’t say that I can have of any specific experience thinking about my work in relation to kids as an audience, but I do think in my work I try to be pretty direct in terms of what I’m trying to say. Partially that’s thinking about access more broadly, but I think that allows a potential entry point for kids to engage with and respond to the work. I am often trying to think about how to talk about complex things but have a really easy entry point, so that there’s something you can sink your teeth into right away. And then you might to mull it over, and there might be new parts of it that are revealed later or that you think about differently later, but that there’s something you can get from it right away.
H: Yes, exactly. I feel like this specific zine is exactly that. All the language and the images are so very clear and accessible, and also resonant. I also think there is a link because Museum spaces are also spaces that don’t tend to prioritize children.
S: Yes, totally, and I guess there is a casual noticing of kids on the subway, and it seems like, yes, they’re on board for rest and the option to sit.
H: (laughing) Yes, a model of resting for sure.
View this WikiHow to make your own one page zine!
© All Copyrights to the artist, Shannon Finnegan
Edition of 29
Single sheet poster fold
No visible ISBN
1.75 x 4.25 inches