by Phoebe Carse
Mystery Meat is a full colour art-zine produced by 15 year old Phoebe Carse. It consists of photographs, found images and illustrations that occupy an unnerving space between charming and creepy.
The content of the zine is introduced with an endpaper collage of stock images depicting stereotypical angst-ridden teenagers; Carse’s self-deprecating wit is evident from the get-go.
Mystery Meat reads like a well-constructed portfolio. There are two distinct threads of work that run throughout its 26 pages. The first, that we are introduced to on the cover and title page (a masterpiece of ziney-ness), is Carse’s accomplished illustration work. Mostly figurative, some depict caricatures of, I assume, people Carse has met or interacted with (a distorted gentleman, sans pants admits “I never watched that documentary you linked me”), while others occupy a familiar hip surreal space (a retro-hipster with an extra set of eyes bares his gummy teeth in luminous fluorescent colours). Of particular note is a self-portrait of the artist looking listless with candy love hearts, the kind with messages, floating in the foreground – with disparaging sentiments from “they’re humouring you” to the modern day anxiety “you accepted his friend request way too quick”.
Interspersed with the illustrated work in Mystery Meat is photographic work. There’s a range - from found photographs to digital self-portraits complete with Photo Booth window and carefully curated desktop. Grainy closely cropped photographs pace the zine and provide a vintage aesthetic (or nostalgic, depending on your age).
The inclusion of found elements with personal anecdotes via illustration, plus a helping of social media woes, is reminiscent of a Tumblr page made into a material artefact – it brings to mind ways in which the two media are so closely related in ideology. Mystery Meat is more crafty and handmade than you’d find on most Tumblrs, but it retains that new media “curation” and appropriates with abandon. For instance, on one double page spread we’ve got and image of Christopher Chiappa’s McMiracles overlaid with stickers of snack food, and in metallic lettering, lyrics cribbed directly from a Why? track. This page acts as a complete remix and a solid closer for a zine that courts the angsty and depressive, but avoids plunging in completely with its fervent attention to detail and a healthy amount of self-awareness.
Mystery Meat is a great art zine with a range of intriguing and well-curated images, which paint a self-portrait of teenager immersed in the world of social media. Hopefully there’s many more zines yet to come from Phoebe Carse.
Richard Richards is a high school visual arts teacher and designer for Potroast.