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Out now: Rubbish FAMzine #3

Out now: Rubbish FAMzine #3

Since returning from Singapore I’ve taken every opportunity to mention local project Rubbish FAMzine. My first contact with it was when its creators spoke about it at U Symposium; father Pann Lim, mother Claire and their two young children Renn and Aira make the magazine as a team under the name Holycrap. The first two issues of the more traditional-format magazine are sold out, and the third issue arrives in a large recycled tin box (above); my sister lives in Singapore and brought a copy back for me recently (a perfect reflection of the mag, thank you Amanda!). So here’s a belated proper look at the project.

When Pann had a health scare a couple of years back he realised he wanted to record his family life; this became Rubbish, so called because this was the family’s word for ‘stuff’ – ‘what rubbish are you eating?’, ‘where’s my rubbish’ etc – and FAMzine, because, well that’s obvious.

Issue one recorded the family’s first trip to Tokyo, and the second was a paean to Pann’s parents, the childrens’ beloved grandparents. Issue three, ‘Forever and a Day’ takes time as its theme, sharing family pictures and stories of the kids as they grow up. The small-format magazine part of the issue is one of several items found inside the large (40 x 25 x 25cm) box. Originally a cookie container made from old tin cans, the box is intended to be used by the buyer as a time capsule, to be filled and buried, and returned to in 2044. The family offer their own starter parts for capsule (below).

All beautifully designed – Pann runs a design studio – the project is a collaboration between the four family members. Their presentation at U Symposium made this clear, with all of them contributing to the talk just as they work together making their magazine. As I wrote at the time, the entire project could easily be dismissed if it were anything like as saccharine-coated as it sounds; what makes it so intriguing is that it feels like a genuine reflection of the relationships between the four. It is sweet but charming, and anyone with a family of their own will relate to the interplay between the members.

Daughter Aira offers a ‘Bro’chure’, with poems about and drawings of brother Renn…

…and a cassette tape features the children singing. I assume – where can I play a cassette? The family’s enjoyment of old formats includes the Sony Walkman and listening to dad’s vinyl; Aira’s description of Liz Cocteau’s lyrics as ‘blah blah blah’ was a highlight of their Singapore talk. Other items in the box include a paper plane printed with messages (‘I feel free when I fly’)…

…and a scavenged twig representing the bits and pieces all kids collect as they walk. Complete with dabs of flourescent paint, this is typical of the project. Their facebook page has pictures of the family hand-finishing all three issues of the magazine.

A more conventional printed element tells of the medical investigation of the family’s shared habit of blinking at flash photography, presented beautifully as a miniature doctor’s report (above).

And then there’s the publication itself, about 200 pages of full-colour goodness sharing family pictures, reflections on time (below) and snippets of family history. It opens with a series of diecut pages mixing older and younger images of the children (above).

As well as diecuts the issue features tipped in pieces that allow reveals; a trip to a bar to watch the world cup final sees a TV grab of the German winners (above) lift up to reveal distraught fans of the losing Argentina team (below).

Another example of hand-finishing tells the story of family trips to McDonald’s; an all too typical family event perhaps but with added value here as son Renn’s allergies to sugar and gluten meant visits were rationed (below).

Finally, when the family succumbed to dengue fever, they recorded the hospitalisation as a ‘holiday like no other’ in a pull-out leaflet.

Rubbish FAMzine is a unique publication that takes the simplest of stories and uses print and other concrete items to make them highly engaging. Although it started as a small family zine project, it’s no surprise the attention to detail applied throughout has brought it design awards and attention from around the world. But however good the design and production, it’s the charm of everyday family life that shines through and makes it so special.

Review by Jeremy Leslie

The issue is available only from Books Actually, Singapore (above, piled in window).

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