Tag Archives: amber forrester

Review of Archiving the Underground #1

8 Apr

From Amber Forrester:

J Bee and Jami had a really awesome idea when they came up with this one. This half-size zine contains interviews with several people on the ethics of archiving zines and using them as teaching tools and resources in academia. Those featured include Milo Miller of QZAP, Alison Piepmeier, who wrote the excellent book Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism last year, Jenna Freedman of the Barnard Zine Library and more. I was particularly interested in reading the interview with Fanzines author Teal Triggs, as she refused to respond to any of my messages in the recent past. As expected, she sort of skirted around the issue when questioned about the sneaky way in which she compiled her book (failing to ask permission of many of those whose work she included in the book, plus miscredits, factual errors and misrepresentations), instead referencing other people’s essays rather than stating her own opinions, questioning the existence of an “underground”, and stating that “the zine’s co-option into the mainstream is certainly nothing new,” effectively letting herself off the hook for doing something really shitty by asserting that she wasn’t the first person to do something really shitty. I find it very interesting that Teal Triggs is willing to grant interviews to other academics, and to “professional” magazines (like the most recent issue of Broken Pencil), whilst refusing to respond to emails from the very zinesters whose work she included in her book. Yet again, it is very telling of what she really thinks of us. Kudos to this zine’s editors for asking tough questions, and presumably not punching their computer screens in frustration, as I surely would have.

Thanks Amber, this is a really great review! If you contributed to Archiving the Underground #1 and you were not at the Chicago Zinefest, your copy will be in the mail shortly. There are also still copies available on Etsy and Stranger Danger Distro, as well as Quimby’s bookstore.

❤ jb

The punk and the curator: On Fanzines

21 Sep

Recently, a lot of zinester folks have been writing about Dr. Teal Triggs’ book Fanzines, like the incomparable Amber (Hello) Forrester of Culture Slut, Your Secretary and hometown-ish hero Ramsey Beyer of List along with many other zinesters on We Make Zines.

Triggs, a historian of graphic design in the UK, has perhaps unwittingly ruffled some feathers after sending notifications to zinesters that covers and excerpts of their zines are being printed in her book–notifications, rather than requests for permission. The notifications were reportedly sent too late for zinesters to request that their zines not be included, and at least in one case, the zine was included under a name that the zinester was no longer using (check out Amber’s blog). Your Secretary, in addition to providing some great basic guidelines for academics writing about zines, identifies their discomfort as based in the fact that Fanzines is a for-profit (and for individual distinction) book. Zine World also has a good run down. Although Sassyfrass Circus was not one of the zines included without (or with) permission, I want to weigh in to this conversation, as a zinester and as an academic who writes about zines.

There is a certain level of responsibility for an academic when dealing with a piece of material culture that is not necessarily copyrighted, that is “ephemeral” and underground, but whose author is both alive, easily contacted, and most likely still struggling economically to engage in their craft. This may not be legally or institutionally required, but it is required by those of us who see in academia (particularly in the humanities) the potential for a radical project. There is a responsibility for academics and archivists to work with, not against or around, underground artists and cultural producers. Jack Halberstam writes in In a Queer Time & Place, “The more intellectual records we have of queer culture, the more we contribute to the project of claiming for the subculture the radical culture work that either gets absorbed into or claimed by mainstream media.” What Teal Triggs has accomplished is the creation of an incomplete archive–images of zines without the voices of their creators, a flattening of a vivid subculture into style–I mean, she is a historian of graphic design–in my pessimism, I can imagine Fanzines being read in advertising classes as a text on how to get that “cool underground look” for your edgy girl power product line. But then, I am admittedly operating from a base level of mistrust.

Triggs is not a zinester, she is for all intents and purposes an outsider to what is admittedly a very insular, though evangelical, subculture. I am operating under the assumption that outsiders, especially “experts” will (because they do) misrepresent, appropriate and commodify.

Back to Halberstam; “Minority subcultures…tend to be documented by former or current members of the subculture rather than ‘adult’ experts…[the] archivist or theorist and the cultural worker may also coexist in the same friendship networks, and they may function as coconspirators.” (See the Queer Zine Archive Project) Triggs stands separate from the subcultural that she studies, “examining it with an expert’s gaze.”

Perzines in particular have been described as something between a magazine and a diary–when you hold a zine, you are being given a gift, the chance to “hear” the innermost thoughts of the zine’s creator, as if they were whispering them in your ear. Zines are conduits for friendships, connections across space and time. To (re)quote one of my favorite ideas from academic Alison Piepmeier, “The paper, then, is a nexus, a technology that mediates the connections not just of ‘people’ but of bodies. Paper facilitates affection.”

Like a whispered secret, the truths that zines contain may be ephemeral. They shift and change from issue to issue, like the identities, situations and addresses of their creators. The danger in archiving individual issues of zines is that it cements a particular whisper. And the danger of being an archivist of zines is that you are projecting that whisper, far beyond its original and perhaps intended audience.

So, if we understand the relationship between zine creator and reader to be a friendship, and a zine to be like a diary entry or a secret whispered in the ear of a friend–to archive and publish a zine is like publishing your friend’s secrets, sharing someone else’s diary. Dangerous territory.

I understand that when a cultural producer puts their work into the world, it takes on a voice of its own, an existence independent of its creator. But zines are often not widely available–when an academic publishes a critical paper on zines or a collection of excerpts from zines, readers of that academic work may not have access to the zines referenced. They would certainly not have access in the same way one would to a piece of canonical literature that is critically written about. So talk to a zinester. Let zinesters speak for themselves–they are the experts of their own lives. We also run in vicious gangs, but also are actually really friendly.

❤ jb

p.s. Fanzine touts itself as “the ultimate book on the subject, full of reproductions of the best fanzines ever created”…okay. Also, this is a discussion, not an edict. Get on it. Also, Teal Triggs has a zine-interview blog in which zine creators shine through the standard-whatever questions. I am assuming this is a separate project, since none of the zinesters I know were contacted about interviews, just about using their covers (after the fact).

well helloooo amber.

14 Jul

Doing some late-night catching up with the world and saw that Madame Amber of Culture Slut and Fight Boredom fame had reviewed Sassyfrass #5. Her distro is also the only one currently carrying aforementioned issue #5, which I may or may not rectify.

You’re still my zine hero, Amber.

❤ jb

zine fest zine fest! pt. 1!

21 Mar

The reading at Quimby’s was freaking packed! I think Amber was reading when I took this picture. Can you see her? I can’t either…but check out her blog for way more detailed Chicago zinefest love.

Zine art wall at Johalla Gallery!

The two pieces I had in the art show! (Pic by Shira Pilarski)

On the shelf at Quimby’s…

Shared a table with these cuties.

And this one–the incomparably classy Ryan Dodgson. (Pic by Ramsey Beyer)

Will the owner of this bearded lady tattoo please come forward to be showered with eternal love and affection?

I came home with a suitcase full of zines! Other people’s zines! Not the ones I came with!

As you can see, I fail at taking pictures. But I had a lot of fun despite returning with some kind of horrible disease that has left me bedridden since. Fail! In any case, so much love and thanks to my host Robin Banx and friends, to all those lovely zinesters near and far, especially those who traded zines with me, and to Milo and Chris from QZAP and their friends who fed me oh so good.

i PROMISE a comix update soon. SOON!


Still up to my neck in school work.

27 Dec

Still outlining my thesis. Still stuck at my folks. So I am just re-posting a post by the amazing Amber Forrester.

See if you can find Sassyfrass Circus #4 in there!

Also here is a random picture of me and my little sister.

❤ j.bee