Text by Lucrezia Sgualdino



The exhibition presented by the Brooklyn Museum in New York transports the viewer into the artistic-creative world of fanzines, a little-known but unquestionably vibrant and dynamic practice, rich in social and cultural significance.

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines

Brooklyn Museum, New York

From November 17th, 2023 until March 31st, 2024


The aesthetic practice of zines is largely unexplored, but fascinating and engaging. Short for the term “fanzine,” they are self-published magazines that collect text, images and research clippings, originally made with photocopiers. This medium has been widely used to create and promote cultural, social, and artistic communities outside the dominant mores since the early 1970s, when more affordable reproduction technologies became widely accessible to the general population. The exhibition is the first major exhibition devoted to zines, brings together more than 800 works on display, investigates their relationship with a range of avant-garde practices and their intersections with other mediums of creation, including painting, drawing, collage, photography, performance, sculpture, video and film. With the survey presented, zines are considered for the first time as a medium in their own right within art history, the appreciation of these elements also makes the contemporary art scene diverse and unique, and the practice does not take on any nostalgic or past aspect. Initially the project, carried out by Branden W. Joseph, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, and Drew Sawyer, Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art, was to be called An Incomplete History of Zines by Artist. A comprehensive survey of this type of publication seemed impossible, given the vast amount of material present, its variety, and the often private and even anti-institutional nature of these projects.

LTTR (Ginger Brooks Takahashi, K8 Hardy, Every Ocean Hughes, Ulrike Müller). LTTR, no. 2, Listen Translate Translate Record, August 2003.
Editors: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, K8 Hardy, Every Ocean Hughes, all American, born 1977.
Offset, folded; with 1 booklet, 1 screenprinted band, 1 altered tampon, compact disc, 12 1/2 × 12 1/2 in. (31.8 × 31.8 cm) overall.
Collection Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, Photo: David Vu.
Lisa Baumgardner (American, 1958-2015). Bikini Girl, vol. 1. no. 5, 1980. Offset, saddle stitched, 8 × 8 in. (20.3 × 20.3 cm).
Collection Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons. Photo: David Vu.
Anna Banana (Canadian, born 1940). Vile, vol. 1, no. 2 / vol. 2, no. 1 (issue 4), Summer 1976, editor: Bill Gaglione.
Offset, perfect bound, two-color offset wrappers, 11 × 8 1/2 in. (27.9 × 21.6 cm).
Collection Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons. Photo: David Vu.
Linda Simpson (a.k.a. Les Simpson) (American). My Comrade, no. 1, 1987. Photocopy, saddle stitched, 8 1/2 × 7 1⁄16 in. (21.6 × 17.9 cm).
Collection Steve Lafreniere, Courtesy Arthur Fournier. Photo: Brooklyn Museum, Evan McKnight.

“Yet, we still felt that artists’ zines deserved to be the subject of an expansive exhibition, not only because the printed medium has become increasingly popular and relevant in the last decade but also because artists themselves have already been exploring these histories and legacies.”

– Drew Sawyer

The exhibition is arranged chronologically: The Correspondence Scene presents some of the early artists who incorporated zines into their creative practice from the 1970s onwards, with artistic exchanges between specific groups spread across various cities in North America; The Punk Explosion expands on the iconography typical of the punk movement that developed at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, challenging institutions and access to distribution channels. Queer and Feminist Undergrounds instead reports on homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, white supremacy, ableism, HIV/AIDS activism and classism. It draws attention to marginalised communities struggling to find the strength to make their voices heard, with the intention of establishing a clear control over their own self-representation. Hence the careful reflection on the relationship between zine and video, an interaction that began to emerge in the 1990s and early 2000s. Therefor, Subcultural Topologies investigates the time span in which the production of zines reached art galleries and alternative exhibition spaces, becoming accessible to an ever wider public; Critical Promiscuity describes how these examples manage to be an important means of communication for queer artists, who employ this medium to reach a wider group of people and make their social discomfort or difficulty less and less blurred. A Continuing Legacy concludes the exhibition by focusing on today’s vibrant practice of the development of new zines by individual artists, movements or collectives, and how they are an important catalyst for social change. They still remain a tool to push critical discourses to the surface of debates, and to give people control over their own histories and representations, allowing them to unite within ideas and find common ground, rich in shared values.

RRD Collective (Joel Castro, María José Cruz, Anuar Portugal, Bruno Ruiz, Sergio Torres). Founded 2016, Mexico City, Mexico. RedEx, 2023. Collection the artists.
Mark Morrisroe (American, 1959–1989) and Lynelle White.
Dirt [Fifth Issue], 1975/76. Xerox, 8.5 × 5.5 in. (21.5 × 14 cm).
© The Estate of Mark Morrisroe (EMM).
Robert Ford (American, 1961–1994). Thing, no. 4, Spring 1991.
Offset, saddle stitched, color offset wrappers, 10 ⅝ × 7 ⅞ in. (27 × 20 cm).
Collection Steve Lafreniere. Photo: Brooklyn Museum, Evan McKnight.
Miranda July (American, born 1974). Big Miss Moviola Chainletter #2: Directory (The Underwater Chainletter), 1996.
Designed by Miranda July and Julia Bryan-Wilson. Photocopy, saddle stitched, 8 1/2 × 7 in. (21.6 × 17.8 cm).
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2016.M.20).
Kathleen Hanna (American, born 1968) with Billy Karren, Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox. Bikini Kill, no. 2, 1991.
Photocopy, saddle stitched, 8 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (21.6 × 14 cm).
Collection Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons. Photo: David Vu.
Ryan McGinley (American, born 1977). the kids are alright, 1999.
Photocopy, saddle stitched, 8 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (21.6 × 14 cm).
Collection Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons. Photo: David Vu.


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