Before the Internet was such a big thing, if you were a creative kid with passion to burn and a knack for stealing photocopies from Office Depot (um, or not), you turned to publishing a zine. These totally do-it-yourself publications were unapologetically tactile.
And Subjects spanned anything from handwritten tortured poetry to
cleanly typeset tomes that mimicked newsstand fare. The beauty of it all
was that there were no rules, and getting a zine usually involved some
kind of personal contact, whether by writing a letter or participating
in a real-life swap.
It's this spirit that fuels "Enter the Nineties," a new exhibit opening tonight from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the main branch of the Miami-Dade Public Library System. For its annual summer art show, the library created an original zine called Poetry and Power, and invited cultural producers from throughout the city to make their own and swap.
The resulting, and ever-growing, results of the swaps will be on display and available for reading, along with old classics donated to the library's collection. Check it out and get inspired to create your own -- with vinyl records and other older, warmer media enjoying a resurgence, why not zines, too?
Cultist reached out to Denise M. Delgado, curator of art services and exhibitions for the Miami-Dade Public Library system. A former zinester herself, she had a lot to say about the exhibition. Here's the Q&A.
Cultist: Where did the initial idea for the exhibit come from? And what came first, the idea for the show, or the idea to archive local zines?
Denise M. Delgado: Well, this year all of the Miami-Dade Public Library System's programs and exhibitions have been planned to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The library came into being as a system in November 1971. Each quarter we're celebrating a different decade.
Gendry Bossano, assistant library curator, and I brainstormed over ways to use those shows as a model. Between 1993 and 1996 I made a zine called Doll and a couple of other zine projects. I really loved the whole process of using zines as an informal place to work out ideas, trade through the mail for other zines, tapes, and records, and have conversations with people outside the little town where I grew up.
The centerpiece of the exhibition seems to be an original zine created for it. Who wrote for it, and what's the general theme if there is one?
I wouldn't call it the centerpiece. It was more of a motor or prompt for bringing zines into the show. The library's art services department -- Gendry Bossano, Oscar Fuentes, and I --made it in about three days and just had fun with it.
Can you explain the swap portion of the show?
We wanted to organize the show through zine culture models of trade, exchange, and distribution rather than traditional curation. We talked to and sent out an invitation e-mail to an initial group of about 40 people who we knew made zines or artists' publications or who we thought would want to participate.
In the exhibition there's a reading lounge set up around what I think of as a bionic, d.i.y. coffee table -- a very long red board set up on milk crates. That table will hold reading copies of many of the zines so people can hang out in the library and look at them.
The show also incorporates archival collections of Miami zines donated by a couple of participants. Are there any in there that are particularly noteworthy that people should check out?
There is lots of good stuff from the collections of artist Kevin Arrow, radio producer Trina Sargalski, artist/musician Oly Vargas, and film curator/artist Barron Sherer. They are actually beloved personal collections on loan to us, not archival ones, brought to the library in crates and plastic bags and Rubbermaid containers.
A lot of zines were photocopied, silkscreened and hand-printed, or otherwise reproduced in relatively delicate ways. Do you have to do anything physically to archive and/or display them to the public?
The display copies, the personal collections, the library collections, and the ones we only have one copy of are shown inside locked glass and plexi cases. The "reading copies" have what's called "tattle tape" -- it sets off an alarm upon exiting the library -- affixed to them just to prevent them from walking, but otherwise people are free to handle them. Zines that get archived will be stored in archival, acid-free boxes and folders.
Even with the advent of blogging, do you think zine culture is due for a renaissance?
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Those models of trade and distribution are different, I think, but zine culture seems to be alive and thriving among contemporary artists. Artists make zines as extensions of projects in other media, as a way to collaborate, or as cheap and easily distributed art objects. They can be a sort of tactile currency.
"Enter the Nineties" opens tonight with a reception at 7 p.m. at the Main Library (101 W. Flagler St., Miami) and will be up until September 13. The library is open Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Call 305-375-5048 or visit mdpls.org.