Festival Report: Brooklyn Zine Fest 2013

| April 22, 2013

Yesterday, I attended the second annual Brooklyn Zine Fest held at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The event was packed with tablers and with visitors, an impressively successful event.  Tablers ranged from independent zine authors displaying their own zines to zine distros to zine librarians (Barnard represented) to arts organizations. It was an impressive mix of talent and, after wading my way through the tables to buy or trade zines with fellow zinesters, I can attest that zine quality was very high. The festival itself got press from the New York Times (who reported that zines have made a major comeback since their heyday in the 90’s) TimeOut Magazine, Gothamist, L Magazine, The Village Voice, and others. While I was attending the zine fest, Lea was writing for this very blog about open access and self-publishing options for writers online. I have a personal interest in zines as a DIY form of personal expression, but it’s also interesting to me to consider zine-impact on education, and possibilities for student involvement.

Among the exhibitors at the zine fest were two zine libraries: Barnard, and Brooklyn College. Both house specific collections with academics and educators in mind–zines are excellent primary resource material for studying counter-cultural movements, as well as intimate first-person perspectives. Also in attendance were Parsons illustration students, who created such a diverse array of artistic materials I couldn’t figure out which student project to purchase (I ended up grabbing the one that was free) and Students for a Free Cooper Union, who used the zine format to express a form of protest against charging tuition (traditionally, Cooper Union does not charge its students tuition). Because zine culture embraces diversity in form and content, zines provide their creators an inexpensive and open format for personal or political expression. And because (as the New York Times pointed out and as the success of this zine fest attests) zines are making a comeback, they also provide zinesters an avid audience. Zines tap into a long history of pamphleteering and are an edgy step-cousin to the more refined chapbook, or the design-savvy artbook. As ephemeral and handmade print objects, zines carry a sentiment blogs can’t easily recreate. And compared with creating a self-published e-book, zines require little to no technical expertise to create. The low-stakes aspect of zine creation is, I think, the most compelling reason for why art instructors or creative writing instructors could consider using them as a teaching aid in the classroom, as Parsons illustration instructors did this year.

It’s with this last point in mind that poet Kimiko Hahn and I are moderating a panel for Creative Writing MFA students at the CUNY Chapbook Festival on May 3rd, called “Zines: Creative NonFiction on the DIY.” It’s at 3pm on May 3rd. Bring your students! Bring yourself!