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Elend&Vergeltung -
a zine by aging cultural producers

An interview with
Isabel Reiss

from Bavaria/Zürich

by Elke Zobl and Haydeé Jiménez

August 2007


"...and there were trumpets and strings and a huge orchestral flourish and we knew that the decision to do it was right - I think there was an angel's choir too. So Elend&Vergeltung was born."
- Isa

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Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
I am 32 and was born and raised in Bavaria, Germany. I lived in Munich for quite a while, then in Berlin shortly before I moved to Zurich where I have lived for the past four years (whilst travelling quite a lot).

What do you do besides your zines?
I studied fine arts and exhibited as an artist for a while. Then I began film-making and curating exhibitions, both of which I still do. I also play in two bands. Hanging out with friends is what I really like to do most, watching movies, especially horror movies. I keep myself busy with all kinds of nerdy occupations such as reading movie lexicons, filing my record collection and discussing movies and music with my friends (mostly via internet chat or email, as most of them are scattered all over the world, but rarely live where I am. Praise the internet!).

Can you tell our readers about Elend&Vergeltung? What topics do you discuss in your zines most often?

The original idea was to make a zine in which elderly people like ourselves, who are also "cultural producers", write about stuff that concerns their work or holds a special interest for them in any kind. Quite often the themes deal with movies or music or certain genres of popular culture, but diary-like texts can also be found. The only rule we have set is that our texts shouldn’t have anything to do with fine arts, hehe.

So the content of the zine is generally created by the likes or dislikes of the authors we invite, most of whom we personally know. In the previous issues themes were discussed like "why is gay porn much better than hetero porn" (by Anna Vosswinckel). Lola Amorez talked about weird encounters with her very own doppelganger, Jack Halberstam pointed out anti-capitalist subtexts in animated movies and Dominique Grisard exposed RAF-member Andreas Baader as a sex symbol. Coincidentally a lot of articles also have, in one way or another, to do with aging. For example: Justin Hoffmann’s article “Wir sind Comic Helden” (“We are Comic Heroes”) takes a look at comic-style music videos and points out that aging pop stars such as Robbie Williams often use comic figures to suggest a super alter-ego with an ageless physical appearance. I myself wrote about celebrities and praise the ones I think have aged well and bash the ones I think aged really badly. Catriona Shaw wrote about her personal experiences of aging and Jürg Tschirren thinks that it's quite hard to understand the youth of today for those in their 30s, although they use the same symbols and signs as older people do. But these signs became meaningless.

What inspired you to create your first zine?

First of all, I always wanted to do a zine and it was time to finally do it after thinking about it for more than a decade. Besides that I had gotten a little job writing record reviews and I really got into writing again. So one sunny Sunday morning I asked Catriona Shaw (who dropped out as a publisher after the first issue and was replaced by Cora Piantoni) and Jürg Tschirren (with both of whom I was close friends and share a passion for music and horror movies) if they would like to start a zine for old guys like us. Both hoorayed and there were trumpets and strings and a huge orchestral flourish and we knew that the decision to do it was right - I think there was an angel's choir too. So Elend&Vergeltung was born.


Where/how are your zines distributed? Who are your readers? What kind of responses do you get from your zine’s audience?

We distribute the zine on our own, which means we carry them around to book stores and record shops, where we sell them mostly on commission. We take orders over the internet ( and force friends to buy them. I also like to promote them on stage, when I play gigs with my bands Mosh Mosh (with Lola Amorez) and Hektor & Rositha (with Miss le Bomb). The other band members don't complain too much as they both are writers with Elend&Vergeltung.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zines?
To create a totally independent magazine.

What do you love and find challenging about zine making?
Most challenging is to really get going the whole process of publishing a new issue. A lot depends on our own and the writer's enthusiasm - which can be quite low sometimes. But I find it really satisfying to publish some weird and exceptional stuff one cannot find elsewhere. I really like to give space to discuss the seemingly unnecessary and emphasize it.

What do you think about zine-making today? What role does the internet play for you?
Well, publishing a print-zine is a lot of work and it takes a lot of time to do it, even though its not a paid job and even though blogs or online-zines take a kind of similar approach. I for myself am not much of a blog reader though. I really appreciate paper-zines as a very important alternative platform and therefore I am really proud each time I hold a new printed or copied issue in my hand. The networking is probably a bit more face to face with printed copies compared to the process of making and “distributing” an online-zine. And I like that face to face thing.

What are some zines you have read lately that you would recommend to someone learning about the zine-making/reading world?
The Plotki femme-zine and the Version magazine.

Elend & Vergeltung cover

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?

Oops, I don’t know, I guess just do it.

What does the zine scene look like in Zurich? Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you?
There is an archive called The Riot Project and there is also a zine-archive/shop at Kalkbreite, which is a squad with a really fine alternative cultural program. I personally like the Zurich based zines of Anne Käthi Werli and Nora Duester, which you could both call ego-zines. Although I know some people/girls who make zines here in Zurich I don’t really feel as a part of a scene. But like I said before: I think all the networking and communities created through zine-making are really important, also in a politically way.

Do you consider yourself as feminist?
Yes, absolutely.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?
It’s the structural sexism, which is everywhere, that bothers me. As sexism here in Switzerland isn’t as severe and obvious as in other places in the world, it is sometimes quite hard to make people realize why I think certain things or remarks are sexist.

What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
Actually I am really fond of feminism today, hehe. To someone who has no idea about it, an alien for example, I would talk about the binary gender system we have here and how one gender opresses all the others in order to keep and maintain its power. I would try my best to make it sound really sci-fi and maybe would also talk about cyber-feminism and Donna Haraway, as I like her theories a lot (and also so that the alien would feel very familiar with the narrative). I would definitely not say that it was a political movement of the 70’s as feminism is portrayed so often these days. Really, I experience that many people, even friends of mine, which I never would have expected, have a pretty preoccupied view on feminism which mainly comes down to burning braziers and being really ugly and not humorous at all. I really don’t know where this comes from and don’t think that a lot of people are just genuinely stupid or conservative. So I’ve been lead to the idea that it must have something to do with the way feminism is portrayed in the mainstream media and that this image bears its fruits.

What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?
More queer and female voices should be heard publicly. There should be proper governmental child support to be able to perform alternative family stuctures. Actually the whole neoliberal system would need to change completly.

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Isabel Reiss
Zurich, Schweiz
isa [AT]



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