Orderly Disorder Zine Tour stops in Milwaukee
The Orderly Disorder: Librarian Zinesters in Circulation Tour stops in Milwaukee tomorrow, marking the finale of a nationwide tour that began June 26. Beginning at 8 p.m. at The Tool Shed (2427 N. Murray Ave) librarian zinesters Jenna Freedman, Celia Perez, Debbie Rasmussen, Jami Sailor and John Stevens will join locals Jessica Bublitz and Christopher Wilde to read from and discuss zines and their impact on media and culture.
But this isn’t your typical literary reading — with topics that range from the pragmatic to the personal to the political, the reading offers an atmosphere that is both informal and more intimate than most spoken word events.
Along with the reading, the tour will feature The Fly Away Zine Mobile, a traveling library that has been collecting zines from around the country. According to Debbie Rasmussen, formerly a publisher of Bitch Magazine, The Zine Mobile is the initial stage of a greater project to create a “traveling free school caravan” offering workshops on sustainable living, such as how to grow your own food or create shelter.
Celia Perez, from Chicago, has written about raising her son and reading young adult literature and is also the author of the long-running personal zine, I Dreamed I Was Assertive. For Celia, “zines are very much in synch with the idea of a library as a place in which all are (or should be) welcomed.” Zines are a document of the “the everyday person,” photocopied and passed from hand to hand or through the mail, written by people who’s voices aren’t typically heard in mainstream media.
While a few zines turn into more established magazines, most disappear. These events aim to offer a sampling of the rich life which zines record and encourage the preservation of that history.
And there’s a lot of history to cover: not one history, in fact, but several. One beginning is with science fiction fans of the 1930s from which a whole genre of zines were born. At that time, the Letters section of Sci-Fi magazines encouraged correspondence between fans. As these fan clubs grew larger, they began publishing their own stories and ideas. Another history starts with punk music in the 1970s, whose anti-aesthetic and do-it-yourself ideology led them to create their own underground media.
Zines such as the British Sniffin’ Glue or the New York-based Punk Magazine were a forum where youth could promote and review records and shows, debate and document the greater significance of the movement. This extended into the 90s, when bands in the Riot Grrrl movement used zines as a platform to articulate a new development in feminism.
Despite this variety, all zines champion the amateur enthusiast over the specialist. They have no serial number and no masthead. Printed in limited quantities, designed, bound and distributed by their authors, zines circulate through a gift economy. Frequently handwritten, they collage together found imagery from the mass media. This practice is based on the hope that in creating a zine, the author shifts from being a passive consumer to an active user of culture. Feminist and queer-positive activists have long recognized that the mainstream media’s images of women and the LBTQ community reinforce negative stereotypes. By seizing and juxtaposing these images with ironic commentary, zinesters forge a positive self-definition from the excess of society’s restrictive definitions.
By leaving the traces of this process exposed for the reader to see, zine authors refuse to hide the battle of self-realization behind a slick, unified style; they invite readers to question and challenge the author’s authority, first and foremost by creating a zine of their own.
It might be said that social media platforms have recently replaced the zine as the vehicle for alternative culture. Not so, according to Jenna Freedman. In a defense entitled “Zines Are Not Blogs,” Jenna points out that those who own the servers which host content reserve the right to “pull the plug” on any material which infringes on copyright or contains objectionable material. When that plug is pulled, the author is silenced.
For Celia Perez, the act of creation is crucial, and a blog will not replace “pounding away at a typewriter, cutting and pasting [and] cursing at the photocopier!” Ultimately, zines are portable, lo-fi and tangible in ways blogs can’t match. A blog will never smell like patchouli, coffee or musty old paper; a zine will never need to be recharged.
The Orderly Disorderly: Librarians in Circulation Zine Tour reading takes place July 7 at 8 p.m. at The Tool Shed, 2427 N. Murray Ave. For more information, click here. The event is free and open to the publc.