Animal Bro is the alter ego of Sydney based artist and writer Jovana Yoka Terzic. She has been referred to elsewhere as a myth-smith, due to the lyrical and playful nature of her work. Her miniature zines are a pleasure to hold and behold and leave a lasting longing to discover and connect to our own urban fables. Upasana Papadopoulos spoke to Yoka about the origins and development of her Animal Bro project.
UP: Could you describe your zines for those who have not had the chance to see them?
YT: I’ve always been an avid reader and I find books very romantic. I try to make my zines feel like they are tiny old tomes you could find in someone’s library or attic.
They are usually snack-sized explorations of a single idea, and most contain original artwork and writing.
UP: Could you tell me a little about Animal Bro? Did the name and concept come from an original epiphany about the relationship between humans, animals, paper and mythology?
YT: Animal Bro concept came to me as an epiphany indeed!
It embodies my relation to the nature, world, the Universe itself. Animal Bro is my alter ego, the artist-shaman, brother of animals and all the living creatures.
On a broader scale, we as people are all related to animals in a very literal sense. It might take us a while to come to terms with that, seeing as we are having trouble even treating each other with dignity. My work often explores man’s place in nature. Not knowing that place makes us lost in more ways than one.
UP: Does all of the art you make fit under the concept of Animal Bro? Or is there work that just does not belong there?
YT: All of my work comes under this concept. Once I recognized this, I recognized the thread that ties all my work together, even my old work before I was fully aware of what I was trying to say.
UP: How did the idea of making zines come about?
YT: I’m fairly prolific; I have a lot of unfinished works and sketches just lying around. I wanted to somehow share these little creatures that would probably never see a major exhibition space or similar. Zines are a great way to communicate with people, easy to make and distribute. Sharing ideas, that’s what inspires me.
And zines are addictive! You make one, and immediately you have an idea for another one, and so on. Meanwhile, you watch how people react to your work and you exchange ideas. You meet other zine makers and then it gets even more exciting, seeing these real people behind all the fantastic work. It is an astonishingly colorful medium, as there is no market to make everything uniform in pursuit of profit.
My work often explores man’s place in nature. Not knowing that place makes us lost in more ways than one.
UP: What can a zine do that your other work cannot?
YT: I’m a professional artist, a painter, and I can see how people are nowadays quite detached from art, they think they are supposed to know something about it in order to be able to enjoy it. I think this is a consequence of trying to put a price tag on art; it gets mystified so it can be sold to people who do not care about art.
Zines are unspoiled in this regard. They are quite simple, direct, cheap and tiny. They don’t seem demanding and people can take them and put them in their pockets and then go home and study them in peace. Zines are very punk in a way, and punk was always close to me. The medium is so cheap that the focus has to be on content, on substance. The simpler the better. Reduction is a great method of creation.
Furthermore, through zines I started writing. That is a completely different approach from visual art that I am used to, and it communicates differently. It’s quite a big thing for me as I am finding new ways to say things that I feel are important and it helps me fully define my thoughts and ideas. Similar to how the words “Animal Bro” gave me a very clear way of looking at something I was already thinking a great deal about.
UP: Do you feel aware of being part of a larger national or international community of zine makers? Is there contact and support for your work in that world?
YT: Yes, there is a huge national and international community of zine makers and it is very supportive. I get very excited about every upcoming zine fair because I know I will discover wonders that others are making. Also, there is Etsy, a place where you can find and buy zines. Good old way of zine trade trough snail-mail still survives. Even such small things as zines feel great to hold in your hand in this age of digital content.
UP: What zines do you admire?
YT: Oh there are so many, but here are some favorites. I loved “Free to choose: “A Women’s Guide to Reproductive Freedom” (Eberhardt Press, Portland OR), I got it from Black Rose Newtown and it’s free. “Lady beard” by Bastian Fox Phelan, “Astrobabble” by Maria Zarro, “From What I’ve Read So Far Of Yours, It Sounds Like Every Man In Macedonia Hit On You” by Tamara Lazaroff, “Carneous Cacoffiny” a metal zine by Can Yalkincaya and Safdar Ahmed, “Bogan Names” by a person whose name I don’t know, “Skinjobs” by James O, and probably my favourite zine ever “Witches Have Feelings Too” by Nickolas Buckett.
UP: Has the purpose of creating a zine changed with time?
YT: Not exactly, but it evolved as I got inspired by others and got a better grasp of the medium. I started with little drawings and now I make zines that discuss things like archetypes and gender identity.
UP: Who or what are your creative heroes and influences?
YT: This is a hard one. I grew up on punk music and European culture. My influences vary from renaissance painters to beat writers. I admire honesty and strength of thought and spiritual vision rather than craft and technique. I’m in love with raw, outsider art. One of my favorite artists is William Blake. Hundertwasser taught me a lot about myself. It would be hard to list all the big influences, as we learn something from everyone, good or bad.
UP: What is your favorite context for exhibiting your work?
YT: I do have work that fits into gallery context, but I really enjoy every unique opportunity to exhibit. Currently I have my giant cardboard puppets shown in the window of Black Wire Records on Parramatta Rd. as a part of Leichardt Fringe Festival. It’s an unexpectedly wonderful fit, and it’s an honor to exhibit in a place of such local historical and cultural significance. Also I enjoy painting murals, as one has to work with the environment to make the most of it.
Yoka has an exciting and full year of projects ahead of her. You can connect with her and find out about upcoming shows via her facebook page: facebook.com/animalbro . Her Zines can be purchased from the Animal Bro Etsy store at: animalbro.etsy.com