Medicine Exchange 

By Zeph Fishlyn

Medicine Exchange started as a simple, tiny one-page zine project: I wanted to share a few different ways I was coping with grief stemming from a series of difficult events in my personal life. When I posted it on social media, I had a sudden flood of requests from friends and friends-of-friends-of-friends for printed copies. They wanted them for themselves, they wanted them to gift to friends of theirs who were going through hard times. One person in Puerto Rico wanted a bunch to share with his community of queer and trans people struggling in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Another in Atlanta wanted to pass it around as part of her organizing work.

It felt strange to ask for money in return for such an intimate work. Also, one of the strategies I had illustrated in my zine was “offer care to others.” So I announced that I would mail a copy of the zine for free to anyone who sent me some kind of documentation of some small act of kindness they were sharing in their own life. I compiled all those responses into a new zine, which I sent back as a pair to the original one for everyone who had contributed a kindness.

I imagined this project as a sort of ripple effect, moving outwards. I underestimated how much the correspondence, the sweetness of peoples’ actions and sharings, the sheer exchange of affective labor and intimacy would ripple back and cheer me up. While I did not ask for much labor in return for all the work—just an anecdote or a text message or a photo—I got a glimpse into the work that so many do on a daily basis to try to make the world a little easier for others.

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a publication dedicated to supporting, documenting and contextualising social forms of art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal takes an eclectic look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions and the public. The Journal supports and discusses projects that offer critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

Created within the Portland State University Art & Social Practice Masters In Fine Arts. Program, SoFA Journal is now fully online.

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