A Look at SICK

The second issue of SICK, an illustrated literary journal highlighting the work of 'sick and disable writers and artists' has just appeared. It's reviewed here by Imogen Howorth:

Capitalised in lurid yellow on the cover of its second issue, SICK’s frank, candid title is impactful and instantly stirring. There is nothing fanciful or obscure about ‘sick’, monosyllabic and closing with a cutting ‘ck’. It is itself a word heavy with negative, morbid association, often tied to ideas of disease, illness, and deterioration. As a magazine title, it is unambiguous and striking, a brave and forceful presence within print, in stark contrast to the taboo and secrecy rife in society’s regard of disability and illness.

Serving as a print platform for disabled and chronically ill creators, Olivia Spring’s magazine is delightfully vibrant, a petite publication fervent with the words and visual art of over fifteen creative minds. Every contributor personally experiences either disability or chronic illness, and their work is informed wholly or in part by their experiences. As such, SICK’s articles and features vary wildly, a reflection in itself of how diversely illness can intersect peoples’ lives.

The magazine itself is a visual joy, shirking monotony and muted hues for pacific blues and luscious pinks. Kaiya Waerea’s design brilliantly frames the magazine’s imagery and words with coordinated streaks of vivid colour and lavish typefaces. Whilst the design choices felt somewhat reminiscent of a retro eighties palette, expressive and garish in only good ways (it would not look out of place on the set of Stranger Things, a compliment of the highest order), SICK’s pages are distinctively unique, and Waerea’s playfulness is unmistakable. Whilst undeniably SICK’s focus is the work of its writers and artists, the design is such that it frames the magazine’s content in a surprising way; vibrant, buoyant colours are not ones instinctively associated with sickness and ill health. Its flamboyant, expressive typefaces and abundance of colour entirely defy any sombre association attached to disability or illness, and unravel any misconception that it is a subject of melancholy or gloom. SICK’s ebullient design is a symbolic embrace of visibility and exposure, whilst chronic illness and disability remain a site of marginalisation.

At first glance, SICK may appear niche, and its readership self-evident. Those that have not experienced prolonged illness or disability may consider their reading or perusal an intrusion, a nosey into the inner lives and experiences of a world to which they feel they do not entirely belong. And yet, this assumption would deny a rich, enlightening read. Having avidly leafed through issue 2 of SICK magazine, I would be keen to suggest that this is not a magazine solely for those whose lives are personally shaped by illness or disability, but for all people, sick or otherwise, who are curious, open-minded, and undeterred by the borders of their own life experience. Though at surface level its readership may appear divisive, SICK is, at its very heart, an exploration of human experience and the human condition, and in this sense it is a relevant publication to all. For those living with chronic illness or disability, or indeed anyone who has in their life experienced prolonged ill health or sickness of any kind, SICK is a community in print, a collection of voices and visions which will resonate and reassure. 

All that is left to say, is that if you are human, compassionate, and curious, SICK will be a richly rewarding read.