Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 09, 2014) — Local zinesters, artists, and activists will assemble at the University of Miami Libraries Special Collections on Friday, January 24 to participate in a roundtable discussion about the ongoing significance of zines, and the evolution of print culture in Miami and throughout the United States.
The event is titled “The Glorious Past and Bright Future of Zines!” and starts at 7 p.m. with an opening reception on the site of the Libraries’ zine exhibition, Flori-zines: Underground Voices from the Sunshine State.
Students and community members are invited to attend the event free of charge, where they will be able to engage in the roundtable discussion at 7:30 with a group of panelists hailing from many facets of the art scene: Philip Aarons (author and rare book collector), Kevin Arrow (curator and author of the zine Tropical Depression), Domingo Castillo (founder of nomadic exhibition project The End/Spring Break), Augusto Mendoza (photographer and book designer), and UM student and zine author Aisha Moktadier. The panel will be moderated by the curator of Flori-zines and Special Collections head Cristina Favretto.
Guests of the event can view some of the dozens of rare and unique collection materials in Flori-zines, on view through February 28. One highlight of the exhibition is the Erick Lyle case, which features a series of publications created by the Miami-bred author and journalist. Some his best-known work is Scam.
“It’s sort of like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City come to life,” Lyle wrote of the city in an issue from 2010. “In what other city can you imagine Art Basel and the FTAA protests happening within two weeks of each other?”
Scam comes in the form of a staple-bound booklet that Lyle wrote, hand-assembled, and distributed himself—defining features of the zine genre. On the cover, printed on flimsy card stock, a depiction of a vintage souvenir postcard features the issue’s title, “Greetings from Miami, Florida,” and a Sharpie-illustrated tourist with “X”s over his eyes swims across black waves, one arm pointing up to the banner, as if to say, “Come to Miami, and all your worries will melt away.”
Zines are a handmade form of literature, constructed with as few materials as a pen, some tape, and access to a copy machine. In the case of Scam, the final product is something like a miniature political diary. Some of its stories are written by hand, in which a perceived urgency materializes from hastily formed capital letters. Curse words slip, along with the occasional typo. As a zine, Scam revolts against the mainstream publishing conventions, and that is a quality gaining interest in the scholarly world once dominated by leather-bound books.
“Zines have always had a high documentary value,” said Cristina Favretto, curator of Flori-zines and the head of UM Libraries Special Collections. She says that although zines were born much earlier, they took off with the “do-it-yourself” spirit of the 1970s as they carried the noise of punk outside the walls of concert venues, buzzing across parking lots and off of record store counters. They even dropped through the mail to later reemerge somewhere else off the grid, like living, breathing manifestations of the “punk attitude.”
A lot of zines today still reflect that attitude, or some small piece of it within the wider web of the 21st century underground: there are zines dedicated solely to the art of Dumpster diving, for instance. And yet, this exhibition proves that far from left behind, or tossed themselves, these raw and truthful souvenirs have earned their place on the high shelves, or collectors’ cases (for a pretty penny, to boot). Favretto says their value is all the more apparent as some would-be zinesters now transmit ideas through blogging and social media. With zines, “there is still the option of anonymity, which lends itself to a diary-like honesty,” she said.
Meanwhile, for zinesters like Lyle, who opt to write under their real names, the zine is more than a vehicle for self-expression. In a 2010 interview for the magazine Toward Freedom about an ensuing national book tour, he said, “You know, [I’m] somebody who lived in abandoned buildings and ate out of the trash and [am now] able to take that knowledge and sensibility to a new location.” Three years later, Flori-zines confirms that Lyle’s and other underground voices still resonate on the pages constructed by their own two hands.