With one significant exception, this explorative
study is concerned with examining the roots of the most recent
surge of self-publishing activity that took place during the
1980s, more commonly known as the zine scene. The word zine gained
wide currency during these years (although not the exclusive
preserve of this decade), and came to embody a particular approach
to self-publishing that is an amalgam of practices and influences
from the more immediate past.
While not a study
of '80s zines per se, this paper surveys the threads linking
zines from this period with the self-publishing activities of
seven different groupings during the years 1960 to 1980. One
particular area of concern has been in establishing the common
features of these publications, and tracing their development
through these two decades.
I should state
at this point that the emphasis in my research has been on publications
produced primarily by artists or that, more broadly speaking,
come out of a cultural and artistic milieu (as opposed to a literary
or overtly political one).
All zines are magazines,
but not all magazines are zines. The dropping of the 'maga' to
arrive at 'zine' denotes a particular set of attitudes, economics
and technological practices that are intertwined in this type
of self-publishing. Non-commercial, self-published in small editions
and very often photocopied, zines arise out of particular subcultural
milieus united by their common needs and interests. Their circulation,
predominantly within these particular environments, places them
deep under the web of cultural activity. It is to this matrix
of issues that this paper is addressed, with the emphasis on
the question: What do zines do?
One word of caution
is in order; anyone doing research on artists' self-publishing
beyond the cursory level, becomes quickly aware of the danger
in stating with any degree of authority hard and fast rules pertaining
to this quixotic activity. However close one gets to pinning
a general theory or fixed structure on this very fluid activity,
an exception, or a number of exceptions will reveal themselves.
In fact the only
hard and fast rule that could be applied to this kind of self-publishing
is that there is always a publication that represents an exception!
Publications also change over time, and one that may have started
as an artists' self-publication could easily 'crossover' into
the mainstream, or similarly one that started out as an 'alternative'
publication, can just by the mere fact of its longevity and monopoly
of a specialized area become mainstream. Examples of these two
crossovers would be Artforum and High Performance respectively.
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