Until recently, the printed page was the most effective, accessible means of disseminating an image or idea. Now, with the rise of digital publishing and distribution, print media offer a chance to reconnect with those ideas and with one another in real, shared space. An experience that's increasingly hard to come by, it might seem quaint if it didn't still suggest real and radical possibilities.
All In, a curated selection of collaboratively produced, community-minded printed matter currently at Martha Street, is both an exhibition and a rallying cry. It's a reminder that publishing is something anyone can do -- no expertise, editor, or invitation needed -- but it's more fun (and more productive) when we share skills, share stories and do it together.
The show opens with an installation by Poster Club, a Glasgow collective that meets periodically to produce experimental, collaborative prints. One, a rough, all-caps proclamation, echoes the show's implicit call to seize the means of (print) production and have some fun: "I don't want to be a machine like Warhol, but I love the idea of using one."
A carefully selected library of zines occupies most of the gallery. Pre-Internet, photocopied, hand-stapled magazines offered vital points of connection for far-flung communities of punks, feminists, LGBT people and sci-fi nerds. Never disappearing completely, their unique blend of accessibility and exclusivity has attracted renewed interest in recent years. Zines are cheap and anyone can make them, but tracking one down depends on chance or effort, forging relationships and conferring a certain analogue mystique.
Produced by a core collective of young feminists and an ever-expanding roster of contributors, Sappho Zine exemplifies the form's collaborative sprit and DIY sensibility. The most recent, aptly-themed "Teamwork" issue brings together illustration, collage, poetry, personal narrative, and comics made over the course of a costume-and-collage party held at MAWA last Halloween. (The handwritten table of contents includes a solid half-dozen former students of mine, which makes me feel both very proud and very old.)
The saddle-stitched anthologies compiled by Places for Peanuts, a local drawing club, reflect the same collaborative party vibe. From 2007 to 2009, the cut-and-pasted pages of Trans.Zine! served as a resource and a platform for trans and gender-diverse people, their friends and allies. A slicker, quarterly publication out of Saskatoon, Kimiwan Zine highlights work by indigenous writers and visual artists. The four-issue run of Sarah Michaelson (alias DJ Mama Cutsworth) and Jo Snyder's "vajournal" 1234V, a celebration of and operator's manual for the female reproductive system, boasts comparable production values, but it's kept on a higher shelf.
With copies traded at punk shows or bought with well-concealed cash from home-based, mail-order "distros," zine culture at its height offered not just an alternative press but an alternative economy and distribution model operating on chance meetings and word of mouth. Today, Dutch Elm Distro circulates packages of locally produced and locally relevant zines and artwork throughout Wolseley and the West End. In the gallery, they recreate an eager trip to the PO box, delivering a hand-embellished manila envelope bursting with seed packets, canvas patches, stickers, pins and zines.
The show highlights other approaches to DIY print and publishing, as well. A collection of handmade books and book-like objects by members of the Pinhole Artist Collective invite novel ways of interacting with printed images. Whateverelse, a series of 11-by-17 broadsheets, challenged artists and curators to collapse entire exhibitions into a single, double-sided page. James Hutchinson's series of lithographs, Proposal for a Discussion Group, shows different views of an empty ring of stacking chairs. The mood of the work is expectant, as if inviting us to join a conversation that's just about to start.
All In closes Aug. 8, but until then, the invitation stands: a string of public events kicks off next week, including a collage party and zine workshop with the Sappho crew, a drawing party and zine launch with Places for Peanuts, and poster workshops during the fringe festival.
At Martha Street Studio: Zine launch and drawing party with Places for Peanuts, Thursday, July 17, 7 p.m. free; collage party with Sappho Zine Collective, Saturday, July 19, 1-4 p.m., free; zine-making workshop with Sappho Zine Collective, Sunday, July 20, noon - 4 p.m., $25, pre-registration required.
At MARCC Art at the fringe booth (Albert Street and McDermot Avenue): Make-n-Take Poster Workshop, Monday, July 21, and Tuesday, July 22, noon - 5 p.m., free.
Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer and educator.