The London Zine Symposium 2009 took place at The Rag Factory (16-18 Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ) yesterday, Sunday 3 May. As an event, it occupies the ground between Publish & Be Damned (with its self-published art focus) and the Anarchist Book Fair (for those committed to full-on and weekend variety anarchist life-styles). There were a lot of familiar faces on the stalls at the Zine Symposium ranging from Mark Pawson (who can also be seen at Publish & Be Damned) to Active Distribution (who favour the Anarchist Book Fair). I was at the top of Brick Lane at lunch time before making my way to the Zine Symposium, and the Whitechapel Anarchist Group (all two of them) were out in force selling their publication WAG in front of the Beigel Bake. Later they were manning a stall down the road at the Zine Symposium. The anarchists somehow managed to constitute themselves as a separate fraction within this event, although the art elements appeared to dominate in terms of the stalls, reflecting the fact that Published & Be Damned is currently the biggest annual bring-and-buy self-publishing event in London.
There were a bunch of readings, workshops and debates, but I only attended Alternative Visions: comics, zines and politics since the 1970s at 2.30pm. The event was dominated by Roger Sabin, a reader in popular culture at Central Saint Martins College of Art. He was assisted by Teal Triggs, Professor of Graphic Design at the London College of Communication. After their own presentations, Sabin and Triggs put a few questions to Isy from Morgenmuffel and Edd from Hey Monkey Riot/Last Hours zines. I had difficulties with the way Sabin treated the hippie and punk subcultures as ultimately distinct, since I feel they are more closely entwined than he assumed, and I also find he takes the rhetoric of those involved with such scenes rather too seriously. However, my main problem with Sabin’s presentation was that he didn’t really deal with the economic and technological factors that have driven change in zine and comic production over the past forty years. However, his ideological idealism didn’t really surprise me given that I’ve never found Sabin’s academic work on subculture very satisfactory, as my ten year old review of his book Punk Rock, So What? indicates (see text in right column of link for this).
As the afternoon wore on, more and more people I knew – starting with Malcolm Hopkins and concluding with Richard Essex – drifted off to The Pride Of Spitalfields. I looked into the pub, but then decided to try to catch the William Blanchard AKA Wildcat Will show Assemblage at the Maurice Einhardt Neu Gallery in Redchurch Street. That exhibition space turned out to be closed and locked up; but as I headed up to it, I did see Jimmy Cauty making his way towards his car, and Martin Sexton standing outside his Artwars Project Space on the other side of the street from the Maurice Einhardt Neu Gallery.
Martin told me Jimmy had just been in to see his joint show with Dominique Lacloche, Beneath The Pavement… The Beach, which was coming down that very night. This joint effort between Sexton and Paris based Lacloche is certainly one of the crazier art manifestations I’ve seen on Redchurch Street in recent years, featuring as it did giant leaves on which photographs have been developed, a levitation machine and a mask of Socrates made out of a 4.5 billion year old meteorite. It made sense to me that a former member of the KLF would have been visiting it. I haven’t seen Jimmy for a couple years, and the weekend just gone was an interesting one for passing people without speaking to them; this started late on Friday afternoon when I’d walked past Liam Gillick on the stairs at Book Works, as he’d been making his way up to the editorial floor of the building, and I’d been leaving. There were a few people I’d avoided speaking to at the Zine Symposium as well, but they shall remain nameless.
Martin Sexton talked me through a few of his innumerable upcoming plans. One that I suspect will remain unrealised is for a psychogeographers super-group featuring Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Tom Vague and me, to play a one off concert at his Artwars Project Space. The next show opening at Sexton’s space is Psycho Pomp, which runs from 8 to 31 May 2009. After leaving Sexton, my next move was a meet with Tom McCarthy, Eva Stenram and visiting US writer Jesse Ball; the conversation ping-ponged between Iceland, Finland and teaching creative writing. Later in the evening I opened an email from Richard Thomas apologising for the short notice but saying that the Gloria radio show I’d recorded for Resonance FM would be broadcast tonight (Monday 4 May) from 9.00 to 10.00pm, and repeated on Sunday 10 May, 7.30 to 8.30pm. Finally, I caught the likes of John Williams and Kodwo Eshun talking on Sukhdev Sandhu’s curious but ultimately unsatisfactory BBC Radio 3 Sunday feature The Life & Times of Michael X, before deciding that was enough counterculture for one day, and settling down with an old school kung fu movie.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!