NBCLX teamed up with artists from across the country to design new “I Voted” stickers for the 2020 election. The latest artist to participate is Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff, a Chicago printer and designer who also happens to be a first-time voter at the age of 37.
Tasseff-Elenkoff said he has never believed in the two-party voting system, but feels a greater sense of urgency to vote this year. He explained to NBCLX’s Jeremy Berg why he thinks the country is at a turning point, and how punk influenced his thinking, his aesthetic and his “I Voted” sticker.
You can find his art on Instagram at @allstarpresschicago. To find and share his digital sticker and our entire collection of artist-created "I Voted" stickers, search “LXtion2020” on Giphy. Are you a first-time voter too? Vote, then use his sticker to share the news!
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Tasseff-Elenkoff: My name's Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff. I own and operate Fugscreens Studios for about 15 years. And All Star Press for about four now. And then previously, about 10 years ago, I opened Galerie F, which is another gallery. I'm a printer by trade, designer, illustrator, curator, little bit of everything.
This is my first time actually voting at 37. I was born in San Francisco so I'm a [U.S.] citizen. I grew up in Paris and London. I've been here since 2002 in Chicago… [But] the two party system – the voting system in general – doesn't really vibe for me. But, you know, this time around it's a little different, obviously for many reasons.
For me – especially at this stage my life, I have a kid, I've got two businesses – we're kind of at a very specific turning point, it seems, in history. Whether it be here or anywhere else in the world, really. And it definitely feels that at this point, we all as individuals and as a society need to make ourselves heard to an extent. And go forward as a little bit more of a united front as opposed to separate and segregated and in... kind of constant angst. So I do think it's important for people to get out there and at least do as much as they can.
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Berg: [What are] your thoughts on how art can help awaken people – or help people realize that they can do these things?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: I've been very active in Chicago... for the past 15 years. And it's always a great space, the creative community, to kind of spur forward thinking and different ways of thinking, different ways of looking at things... Different cultures come together, different ideas. And usually, when it's something creative... it can be understood in a slightly different way where if it's coming from a less creative standpoint, I feel like there can be more of a barrier that's that's put forward, or more of a wall that's put up – where when you have that creative conversation, it can maybe spur a little bit more flexibility in people.
Berg: Can you walk me through the thought process of what you wanted to do with the “I Voted” sticker?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: I figured that I would keep it simple. It's a squeegee being pulled by a pair of skeleton hands. I did the hands because it's Halloween. You know, it's October. And also, it has maybe a connotation of some other stuff that is a little bit deeper and a little bit more sinister. But the squeegee just pulling the ink and then the ink displaying the words “I voted.” It's pretty straightforward, I guess. But it is to the core of who we are. I cut my teeth in the gig poster industry over the last 15 years. And so the squeegee and that kind of punk rock aspect is near and dear to me. And so, it kind of came together very quickly… It felt right, I guess.
Berg: And how did you create this?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: I generally work between digital and manually. So I tend to draw something initially by hand, scan it in the computer, and then digitally color or touch up, and then kind of clean up. I used to do everything manually quite a while ago. But with the advent of digital tablets and all that stuff, it makes everything so much easier and cleaner and you can really rework things a lot easier than doing it by hand. So, yeah, I play around with the colors a lot and just got to a place I was happy with. And that's what we have with the outcome.
Berg: The idea in the picture of the squeegee – that's the old style way you would screen print it, correct?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: Yes. So that's a manual hand-held squeegee that I generally don't use anymore. We have a press and we are semi-automatic at this point. But yeah, that's the classic handheld squeegee. The ink is a little red to kind of, you know, connotate towards the slightly darker side of things. But yeah, that's the old school way of doing it.
Berg: Printing is such a huge part of this country and what's happened to this country over time. What do you think about that in getting messaging across when it comes to elections?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: Obviously, you know, the digital format is everything these days. But there's definitely been a resurgence in printed material and more tactile material over the last decade, it seems. Especially with posters. They've exploded in the last 10 years or so. And so it does, you know, it kind allows us a slightly different way to to reach people and to participate. And, you know, it's been part of our political history for the past couple hundred years in terms of printed material and presses influencing media... But, you know, the idea of a banner, a poster, a flyer, a pin, a sticker or whatever, most of it's all printed at some point. So it definitely has a large part to play in the everyday kind of conversation that we have with other people or our government, for that matter. So it's still very important.
Berg: You mentioned growing up and learning that punk rock aesthetic. Can you tell me what attracted you to it when you were a young artist and even now?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: I think inherently it's a lot of the sentiments that run through that sort of music and culture probably since the 60s is the idea of kind of doing your own thing and not necessarily adhering to popular demand. And having the guts to speak upon your own beliefs and having the confidence to kind of be a little different… And the gig poster industry has always kind of been part and parcel of that because a lot of these artists who are in that industry tend to grow up in those environments where they're slightly different.
From a historical music gig poster standpoint, Frank Kozik was a huge influence for me back in the day. Lots of musical influences like Melvins, Nirvana, Mudhoney, that kind of stuff. Iggy, Patti Smith. And then I also am a big oldies fan. So lots of Elvis and Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, James Brown. It's just all interwoven.
Berg: What do you hope when people see this sticker, use it digitally or just see it online, hear your story? What do you hope they get out of it?
Tasseff-Elenkoff: That it spurs a little interest in getting out there to vote themselves, or even just to pass on to somebody else. You know, the general point of this would be to spread the word and and hopefully just bring people together a little bit more than the last four years have kind of allowed us. And, you know, in terms of our community here in Chicago, it's been hard, but… there's a lot of people who've come together in a really positive way… And obviously now during COVID, that's so much more difficult than it ever has been. But there's been a lot of positive interactions that we've had over the last nine months with the community in Chicago, and it allows some of that to kind of spur you forward… It's not all doom and gloom. There's definitely some lights at the end of the tunnel, which is a pretty dark, long tunnel at the moment.
I'm somewhat hopeful, though. I am generally a pessimist. [But] I do, especially being a father, I see a possible better future where all the conversations that have been ignited this year continue and [are] further discussed and worked out. So I hope that we can do that. And so we can all kind of get to a better place.