Zinefest celebrates rogue publishing

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This weekend brings the third annual Twin Cities Zinefest at Stevens Square Center for the Arts (SSCA) in South Minneapolis. This celebration of the creative energy and resourcefulness of low-budget DIY publishing includes not only several tables of local zinesters and their wares (including MOQ), but also a demonstration of binding techniques (besides stapling), courtesy the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and a talk about mail art by artist-humorist-publisher Tom Cassidy–all in the air-conditioned comfort of SSCA’s second-floor space; as well as a kick-off party on Friday night at Fallout Urban Arts Center. We asked organizer (and zinester and musician) Gerald Prokop, aka Prokiev, to tell us more.

Can you give us a little background–was last year’s Zinefest the first? How did it get started?
This is our third year, so it started in 2004. It started because the previous year (2003), a group that I was a part of held a small zinefest at the Rogue Buddha Gallery, and a couple of us attended the Allied Media Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio. The group, (Afunctionul,) disbanded in 2004 and I joined SSCA. I proposed the idea when I found out that another SSCA member, Erik Farseth, was a veteran zinester.

Are you the sole organizer?
This year I am. The previous two years Erik was doing most of the work because I was running the SSCA gallery space. Last year Erik went to graduate school and I quit the gallery to focus on this.

It looks like Zinefest has about a dozen or so participants, is that the same as last year? I suppose that zine publishers are by their very nature anarchic and independent, and so that makes it difficult to know how to reach them all to let them know about something like this. How have you been promoting the event?

I think this year is the biggest as far as registration turnout. Last year we had between five and ten registered tables and a small but steady turnout. [This year] we had two volunteers from the zine community, Karen Olson Edwards and Dana Raidt, doing a lot of the publicity, which was great! They were a big help. I definitely think this year will be better.

I noticed that artist Tom Cassidy is giving a talk about mail art. Tell us a little about the connection between mail art and zines, please.
Actually, I’m hoping to learn the same thing! I’ve always thought of zines as a form of correspondence, and a lot of zine people are into pen-paling or mail art or something similar. It’s just another way of communicating through the mail that has more to it than simply writing a letter.

You’ve also got a demonstration scheduled about DIY binding techniques, which will include supplies donated by MCBA. Aren’t most zines just stapled?
Yes, most zines are just stapled. But they don’t have to be! I’d like people to go home with new ideas about how to look at zines and how to make them. And like any art form, zines can be done as many ways as you can imagine.

It looks like you’re on the verge of launching a couple of resources for zine publishers on the SSCA Web site- a zine library and a distribution center. Tell us more about that please.
The zinefest sort of became a launch pad. Selling zines and collecting them for SSCA became a natural outgrowth of organizing this thing. Ever since day one we’ve had a distro and a library, but now I’m actually putting it all together and making it more visible and intentional. It’s kind of a three-in-one package, and having SSCA as the canvas is great and makes it a lot easier than starting from scratch.

How did you get interested in zines? How long have you been publishing your own zines/chapbooks? I took a quick look at your new Web site, will you have all the zines and CDs listed there available at the Zinefest?
My first “zine” was a coarse spoof on my highschool newspaper. I picked it up again [publishing zines] in college when we formed Afunctionul, and when I started writing poetry. That was around 2000. I’ve also always produced my own independent CDs, and that’s the direction I’m going in now.

I stopped bringing all of my projects to every event! I think people get lost, and of course I’d rather promote the newer stuff or the things I’m more proud of. Plus I’ve got my system set up so I don’t have to have everything in print, but I can do it on demand if someone orders an old project. I’ll definitely have my newer projects available.

How do the Twin Cities stand in the zine publishing world? I mean, do we have a particularly large concentration of zinesters? Or are we a bit behind the curve? Or maybe it’s just getting started here. What’s your take on that?
I don’t know. It’s hard to take a look at the whole picture, because really the zine scene seems to be thinly spread nationwide. Nobody does it for a living and people communicate over such great distances. I know we don’t have any well-known distros located here anymore, and there’s only one retail location I know about, besides us, who are serious about selling zines, and that’s Arise Bookstore. I’d like to think that there are plenty of zinesters around, but it’s just not a real visible scene. I think that’s kind of the point of the zinefest.

Is there anything else you want to tell people about the zinefest?
Yes! Come to the kickoff party! There will be four live music acts, (including me) and we’ll distribute programs for the weekend’s events and we’ll have selections from our library there for you to read! It takes place at the Fallout (2609 Stevens Ave. S.), which is an organization that has a ton of zinesters in it. Friday at 7 p.m.

The Twin Cities Zinefest is open to the public Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Both the bookbinding demonstration (1 p.m.) and Tom Cassidy’s talk (4 p.m.) take place on Saturday. Stevens Square Center for the Arts, 1905 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis. “www.stevensarts.org/zinefest/”:http://www.stevensarts.org/zinefest/ The Kickoff Party on Friday at 7 p.m. is at Fallout Urban Arts Center, 2609 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis. “www.falloutminneapolis.com/”:http://www.falloutminneapolis.com/ Gerald Prokop’s Web site is “here”:http://prokiev.stevensarts.org/