In a Western world where ‘gay culture’ seemingly melds into the candy floss of everyday pop music and is repackaged as a commodity of camp and fierceness, Chicago IRL is a refreshing take on the creativity of young queers. And it is a freshness that shouldn’t be geographically bound to the Windy City.
The ethos of the publication is pretty clear – “Chicago IRL is a new zine cataloging queer creative culture in and around Chicago.” These revolutionaries are taking their visibility into their own hands, shouting from the rooftops ‘this is our work, look at it!’ And it’s something that brings a smile to my face. The work is unashamedly queer, not only for its inclusion in a queer-zine, but also in its complex and informed content. It is a positive feeling when work by young people can celebrate sexuality in an engagingly sincere and sometimes humorous way. It is the power of disenchantment, I guess. (IRL’s words, not mine!)
And the IRL tag itself is pretty interesting, as it really speaks volumes about the work on show here. The contributors are generally products of the digital generation, finding their feet on blogs and social networks – where a lot of the work itself seemingly evolved from. But now it takes a leap from the internet and into print, into the real life. And while it lacks the DIY aesthetic of traditional zines, it pulls of the move to physical object brilliantly. Proudly presenting work that would otherwise be relegated to the online domain.
My personal favourite is Topher McCulloch‘s appropriation of Barbara Kruger’s visual language, creating a homo-centric homage to the feminist struggle and the ever present online community. A combination of elements that is unsurprising, since McCulloch is also Editor-in-Chief of the zine itself.