Zine culture is alive and swell.
This news may come as a surprise to some as it was assumed by many that the Internet would kill any need for paper publishing of all kinds. Why bother to hand-craft and self-publish a magazine when creating a blog could be done in a fraction of the time?
The answer was found at Saturday’s Print Fair/Market held in the gallery of Dynamo Arts Association where local art book publishers such as Black Market, Zine Club and Paper Innards Distro — just to name a few of the participating 18 — sold their zines and artworks.
Dynamo’s Sarah Davidson teamed up with fellow artists Erica Wilk of Moniker Press and Juli Majer, publisher of freaker zine DDOOGG, to put on the one-time show to give their friends a chance to display their works at no cost.
“We’re interested in the actual book as an object,” said Davidson. “There’s something specific about the relationship between one page and the next. The size of the book changes how you relate to the content. There are a lot of ideas just in the physical form of the book to play with, so I think as an artist, that eclipses putting an image on the Internet.”
The interest in art books is there, evidenced by the popularity of the Vancouver Art Book Fair held at the Vancouver Art Gallery in October. The fair, going into its sixth year and modelled after the New York and Los Angeles art book fairs, featured more than 100 local, national and international publishers and saw more than 5,000 visitors through the doors.
While Dynamo’s fair had its share of experienced publishers, its organizers were especially interested in helping out emerging artists and publishers. “We’re like the actual dirtbag artists of Vancouver — the emerging artists who have to struggle to pay our rent,” said Davidson with a laugh. Added Majer, “Yeah! But a lot of the time, it’s the dirtbag people who don’t make money [who] are the ones making the cool stuff. We want to be able to support those people and help them out anyway we can.”
The fair’s spirit is in keeping with Dynamo’s DIY mantra. The non-profit communal art studios are located at Ontario Street and East Sixth Avenue in the city’s pocket of old office buildings. Nathan Jones, another Dynamo artist and organizer of the one-night zine show Print Ready, described the space before artists moved in four years ago as “a mix between a call centre and shipping and receiving.”
Dynamo formed in 1996 by a group of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design students (now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design). Incidentally, this was the same time when the last wave of zine culture, fueled by the underground feminist punk Riot Grrrl movement, had already reached full swing. Anybody who lived in the Commercial Drive area during the 1990s surely will remember Magpie Magazine Gallery and its racks of both local and international zines.
Dynamo’s original studios were on the second floor of 142 West Hastings St., near Or Gallery, Artspeak and indie gallery/art space Church of Pointless Hysteria, which also used to exist on the 100 block of West Hastings.
While artists like Davidson, who graduated from Emily Carr in 2015, were too young to experience the era as it happened, it now influences their work.
“It’s very much the spirit of the ’90s that people are paying attention to,” she said. “The publishing and music that came out of that Riot Grrrl movement, even some of the iconography, you see it when you go to art book fairs now. The ideas that were forgotten… are something people are talking about now.”
For Majer and other self-publishers, the growing interest in the zine scene bodes well for the future.
“When I started DDOOGG a few years ago, I felt like I was really alone in doing experimental comics,” she said. “A lot of my friends felt stuck after art school so I asked them if they’d like to participate in this book we’re making. Books are a really great thing to put your energy towards because they have a beginning and an end.”