Lu Williams // Penny For Your Thoughts

It’s a well-known fact that a large part of working as an artist includes counting your pennies, your really tiny amount of pennies. Even with two jobs and my own organisation I’m very much scraping by on-the-daily because of an internal drive to make stuff. Coming from a working class family in Southend, DIY culture has largely influenced the way I create work, through a thorough upbringing in industriousness.

Grrrl Zine Fair became what it is after I realised I could make parties as well as sculptures and that it was just like installation or performance; except I could invite friends and get them to show off what they’re good at too. It was a vernacular everyone immediately understood and there were no ‘do not touch’ signs. Zines, bands and artists exhibiting or hosting workshops, film screenings and panel talks come together as a kind of feminist party. This takes up a lot of time and requires a lot of love but it works because the community around it has that same drive to make and collaborate, without any authority.

It’s also a well-known fact that the DIY community is very supportive of one another and very unsupportive of patriarchy and capitalism, providing an alternative to consumer culture, to appropriate, to customise, in music, in art and in self-publishing.
I didn’t know any of my friends read The Economist until I was forwarded an article I’d been featured in (look mum, I’ve made it!). Yet it was really gutting that my in first mention in a major publication I’d not only been misquoted but appeared to slag off a really good friend for collaborating with a brand.

In a recent Artangel conversation with Jeremy Deller, Miranda July pointed out the significant rise in brands co-opting artists to make their stuff seem cool, and, as a Riot Grrrl at heart this made her uneasy. In her latest work, a pop-up charity shop in Selfridges, she built a multi-faith charity shop. An institution of the working class in collaboration with a luxury shopping brand. July commented that as an artist she used this idea of brand collaboration like it was a material. Like paint and plaster are physically manipulated into a work, could virtual reality adverts, facial recognition billboards, branded content and sponsored ads serve as a new medium? Haven’t artists always co-opted contemporary trends to create something counter cultural?

If collaborating with a brand means you can pay fellow women and non-binary artists, whose work you love, who are underrepresented, who are also counting their pennies, then I think that’s really cool. At least it’s a step away from the ‘starving artist’ ‘lone genius artist’ narrative that’s been championed by famous male artists for centuries.

Be DIY ’til you don’t die and can make a semi-comfortable existence for yourself and your community.

Lu’s project Grrrl Zine Fair will be launching a pop up shop at JagerSoho from November 6th – 11th, with Issue 2 of Grrrl In Print launching on the 6th and workshops and live sessions throughout the week in collaboration with Soho Radio, Jägermeister, Blue Mary Records featuring Nova Twins and Militant Girlfriend and special guests. The closing party will be an Issue 4 launch of Sassify Zine. For more details visit @grrrlzinefair on Facebook or Instagram.