Tag Archives: archives

Oh crud this blog is full!

9 Mar

I am too cheap to upgrade to the premium option, so I’m just starting a new blog. The url will still be sassyfrasscircus.com, or https://sinewthatshrinks.wordpress.com/. Thanks for your patience while I get the site together, and don’t worry: this site isn’t going anywhere, with years and years of comics and zines and weird fashion posts! Sassyfrass Circus lives on.


Building a community archive

24 Feb

A couch from Henry Rollins mother. A rug from Ian MacKaye’s father.
Several massive filling cabinets stuffed with nearly 30 years of fliers for punk shows, activist gatherings, self education workshops, and collective organizing. Hundreds of books, tapes, records, movies, and other relics of the illustrious DC punk and hard core scene. A veritable trove of history from our own community- our voices, our music, our actions. Positive Force is unearthing it’s basement, and we need your help to make it into something more.

We would like to this space (in our dear friend’s basement) transformed into an active community space. A lending library, a meeting space, a digital archive, a place where academics and young punks and anyone else can come to learn or just hang out. We envision open hours, and book clubs. But right now two things stand in our way:

1: The space needs physical help. Some touch ups to the wall sand ceilings. Some new bookshelves. Some cleaning, rearranging, and organizing. Some snazz, some fun.

2: The collection needs to be digitized. We want to be accessible. We want these things to live beyond their disintegrating life lines. We would love students, activists, and volunteers to join us in finding a way to do this.

We welcome any and all levels of help and support, from shelf builders to up-loaders to wall constructors to pile-organizers. We offer you all our wonderful treasures, our collaboration, enthusiasm, and support for whatever you might want to see happen!

Initial meeting: March 3, 1-5PM (feel free to only come for part of the time)

1-2 Envisioning
2-230 Next Steps
230-5 Clean and Toss and Shelve etc.

Email mmpetrie@gmail.com or message me for more information/ the address (it’s in Columbia Heights, near the metro/ St. Stephens Church).

Works in Progress

17 Jan

This is going to be a book cover for a swell small press:

This is going to be a postcard for one of my favorite distros:

It’s based on the cover of Wimmen’s Comix #7 drawn by Melinda Gebbie. I’m going to attempt to do it in full color even though it ain’t my forte.


Scaling the Ivory Tower with Jami Sailor (and counter-archival practices from outside the academy)

20 Feb

At a lecture by Ann Cvetkovich (a professor I would very much like to work with) this week on “An Archive of Feelings”, I asked a question in reference to the Fales Library Riot Grrrl Collection at New York University. What happens to an affective object when it is archived by an institution? Is it possible for an institutional archive to keep affect “alive” in a material artifact? Is it possible to create an archive that is open, that cultural producers are able to interact with and respond to? What is the difference between being archived, and archiving oneself (see Tammy Rae Carland’s Archive of Feelings)? Professor Cvetkovich responded to my admittedly ridiculously huge quesiton in two particular ways that stuck with me; first of all by mentioning the importance of exhibition in counter-archival practices (which I absolutely agree with), and secondly by pointing out that Kathleen Hanna has publicly claimed to be “not anti-institution.” Okay, well, I am not anti-institution either. Like Kathleen Hanna, I came out of an academic institution, and I also aspire to go back to one.

What is at stake here is the institutional practices we support, and how we can build a better, more democratic institution. Admittedly, I am not an expert on archives or (to use the technical term) library stuff, so these thoughts are primarily based in a deep belief in open access and the radical potential of universities. I would love for my librarian and archivist friends and acquaintances to weigh in on this, and I hope you do.

A recent article about the Riot Grrrl archive, hosted at the largest private university in the United States, reads:

“It’s certainly an impressive collection, but one that is cloistered away from the public at large. The catch is that you have to be a scholar to access it. If you’re writing your dissertation on feminist theory, you’re in luck. If you just want to see the blue dress because Pussy Whipped changed your life—and, if given the chance, it certainly will—that’s another story entirely.”

Kathleen Hanna’s filing cabinet seems to me to be an important touchstone for thinking about counter-archives– “Although the cabinet has functioned as a storage space for important documents, it has also been cataloged as a vital artifact in its own right.” The filing cabinet has functioned as an archival space in of itself; a subcultural archive now deemed worthy of “serious” study and entered into a serious archive. This is an archive that used to go on tour with a punk band, and now it’s behind locked doors at a private school. The question of a counter-archive, an archive of feelings, depends upon valuing the quotidian, valuing the subaltern, imbuing humble objects with great meaning. How can this counter-archive exist without being open and accessible?

Until every archive is open and every border falls,
❤ 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).