April 18, 2015

A Zine Scene Shining Bright, EXILE Books on the Knight Arts Blog

The iconic Bacardi building complex on Biscayne Boulevard has always been a beacon, with its distinctive architecture and the stained-glass horizontal tower lighting up the neighborhood even during its bleakest days, promising better things to come. But when the YoungArts Foundation (which has received multiple grants from the Knight Foundation) decided to transform the spaces into its national headquarters in 2012, bringing in famed architect Frank Gehry to help with renovations, that promise turned into reality.

The now vibrant campus hosts lectures, classes, residencies, performances and a YoungArts Gallery, which just opened the exhibit “Love! Rage!! Passion!!! The World of Zines.” Somehow this seems a great fit for the location and the campus. A collaboration between EXILE Books (a 2104 Knight Arts Challenge winner) and the University of Miami Special Collections, the Zine theme reflects the recent bubbling creativity that has taken over this area north of Downtown.

Yes, those exclamation marks, growing in intensity in the title, are intentional. A sense of exuberance about all forms of the arts, expressed in self-made, completely independent paper works that we call Zines, jumps out from the two floors. As co-curators Amanda Keeley, founder of EXILE, and Cristina Favretto, head of the Special Collections at UM, walk through the exhibit, they are excited to point out how raw and intimate Zines are. A single fan of music, a group of aficionados of science fiction, can make a D.I.Y (do it yourself) publication from photocopies.

And, they point out, even in – or despite – our digital Internet age, Zines remain popular. Making a tangible, home-made magazine, it turns out, is a thriving hobby.

The first floor is EXILE Books’ section of the exhibit. It is filled with contemporary Zines made by three YoungArts alums (these Zines are in general small, with only several pages and hang from strings on the wall); a “pop-up” store with a sampling of Zines for sale; and in the middle a workshop space. Everyone is encouraged to come on over, says Keeley, and make their own D.I.Y publication in the workshop – there are free copy machines. Old School. “It’s such a powerful medium,” says Keeley, in that it promotes impromptu art and collaboration.

While Zines are, for the most part, a youth-inspired product, they weren’t born yesterday.
You’ll find this out when visiting the second part of the exhibit upstairs, selections from the UM collection, which Favretto says is now one of the largest Zine collections in the country.

The historical roots become tantalizingly clear here. Images and themes tied to specific counter-culture eras are featured – although thankfully we are not bombarded with too many examples crowding the walls. There are early homemade publications, for instance with tell-tale typewriter text and references from the Beat Generation. Or late 1960s rock ‘n’ roll poster-like covers with the likes of Lou Reed. And, of course, punk photo-copy Zines from Britain and the U.S., when the Sex Pistols ruled.

But, says Favretto, Zines were (and are) being made “in Iowa and Uzbekistan,” as they are a universal form of expression that don’t need a publisher or label.
And while music is a common topic, many subjects are addressed in these fragile, by design “limited edition” magazines. The overarching anti-establishment theme runs through all the Zines, whether they were made a half-century ago or yesterday. There is, no surprise, a comic-book spirit to many, with text and drawings and poems relating to gender issues, social dynamics and just plain fan adoration.

To illustrate this, Favretto points to a Zine called Fat!So?, which was produced by women tackling the thorny topic of “fat girls;” and one called Yo Soy Miami, which is actually about a vegetarian lifestyle (soy products, get it?). Then she highlights a Zine out of New York dedicated entirely to everything to do with the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The exhibit runs the gamut.

In one corner is a screen with lounge cushions, where you can watch a video about making Zines, and a delightful clip of 1980s youth-culture films, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High to The Breakfast Club.

As UM has continued to grow its counter-culture collection over the last several years, Favretto says people have been sending her unique, rare examples of Zines from across the globe and eras, significantly enhancing its reputation. But it had mostly remained within university walls – this was a chance to bring it out to the public, and in an interactive way when entwined with EXILE Books at YoungArts.

The exhibit will shout out “interactive” when it moves to the outdoor plaza on April 26, for the Miami Zine Fair. Artists, poets and Zine creators will take over tables and will collide with the O, Miami poetry festival (another Knight Arts grantee). At one point, in collaboration with O, Miami, the O,ral Records: Transit project will culminate on the plaza, with a collection of tales gathered from rides on buses, trains and trolleys, performed by actors and musicians.

According to Keeley, Miami has never had a Zine fair before, and the excitement it’s generated surprised her. The amount of people who requested a table for the event has surpassed capacity. “We have 48 tables filled for the plaza!” she says. The limit.
With the Zine scene, that beacon of Bacardi is bright.
The Miami Zine Fair takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 26, and “Love! Rage!! Passion!!! The World of Zines” runs through May 15 at the YoungArts Foundation, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; www.youngarts.org.

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