Monday, March 09, 2020

zines and the classroom

landscape architecture: postcards and principles  (limited editions) / kristy bowen

Today, I spent some time with an African-American history class who are making zines as their final projects--the first of a couple of classes we'll be working with in this capacity.  While this one is individual pamphlets centered around the idea of  an"How to Not be a Racist" primer, the second will be a sustainable fashion collab zine created by the whole class. Whenever I'm working with the students, I can' help thinking how much more engaging the prospect of creating a zine is compared to say, a paper or presentation.  How much it benefits them to synthesize what they are learning through the lens of a creative project. Granted, some seemed more heave-ho into it than others, but I know I would have responded well.  It's tragic that zines were reaching their hay day as I was leaving highschool  and had not yet punctured the academic barrier (and I think are only really beginning to do so now.)

I had an amazing junior year English teacher who was a breath of fresh air after a strict 5 paragraph essay sort of teacher I'd had both previous years.  Creating an essay was so outlined down to the sentence that it was more like a game than a process.  Much less creative.  So we wrote essays on Romeo & Juliet and All Quiet on the Western front, and I did well, but I can't say I was excited about it. My competitive nature caused me to excel, but I didn't retain much afterward.  You could have knocked me over with a feather the following year, when our unit on The Crucible was ended with not a test or a paper, but a giant collage, which I dutifully culled from Glamours and Cosmos while I watched the first episode of Bevery Hills 90210 sprawled on my bedroom floor in front of my tiny b&w television. I enjoyed it so much, it's one of my best high school memories.

What followed was my first book art project, though I wouldn't have called it that then.  In lieu of an essay, we were invited to make some sort of creative book project spurred by The Scarlet Letter (and I was the type of girl who loved the doomed love story aspect of the novel--I would later write my term paper on Gone with the Wind, so yeah, I was that girl.).  The book project was cobbled together pages full of flowers, pretty much the only thing I could draw (still).  Hester was symbolized by red, Dimmesdale by White, Pearl by Pink, and they enacted their story throughout the book symbolized by the flowers.  It was probably terrible, but I think I did well on the assignment.  By senior year, we were onto another teacher, a more staid essayistic approach, but those assignments turned a key to a part of me me that is still running today.

Despite hitting college in the early 90's, it was a hot minute before I saw an actual zine.  Sassy magazine was sort of a glossy take off of zine culture, and while the magazine reflected and talked about them, I didn't actually hold one in my hand until my sister and her high school art class friends make comic/zine a couple years later.  (my sister also brought home a blue sparkly artist book I was particularly enamored of in those years.)  I was knee deep in writing and doing theatre,  and not so much a visual art person, so it was more than a decade until I took my first steps into indie publishing and anything book-like. First of course, chapbooks, then collages, and then finally toward the end of the aughts, my first zine projects incorporating both text and image (see above's landscape/architecture zine)

It was an obvious step, but one I am surprised took so long to develop.  Now, in addition to the book objects and zine projects, I regularly make little zines and small editions for the library zine exchange which sometimes turn out to be cool.  Also resource zines on various topics. We do zine nights, and travel to do zine making in various places, and I do a mean powerpoint presentation occasionally on the history of zines. I think the fact that I am called on to do so, and that there seems to be a trend of using them in the classroom and it's very exciiting.  I hope to see more...

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