Archive Exhibit brings underground culture to the mainsteam

By Sawyer Pollitt, Staff Writer

Located in the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives below the Claire T. Carney Library, is a space that many on this campus may not be familiar with.

As soon as you enter the archives on the right is the William Q. and Mary Jane MacLean Gallery, and since January it has hosted The Z. Archive 2018 Invitational Zine Exhibition.

This exhibition is home to 271 small independently published “zines” that cater to an extremely niche audience.

I sat down with Ellen Mueller who is a new professor at UMass Dartmouth. She began teaching in the College of Visual and Performing Arts in the fall semester of 2017 and is interested in developing curriculum for social practice, performance art, video art, and digital fabrication.

She is responsible for organizing The Z. Archive show and she offered an in-depth look at many things including what a zine is, as well as the thought process behind putting on such a unique show.

Zines have a unique history and have a great social and cultural impact. Ellen explained, “So the [Zines] are rooted in early independent publishing. This is before print on demand or anything like that.”

She continued to say that “They have their roots in all kinds of sub-cultures, so whether it’s punk-rock, feminist movements, or anyone who felt like there were not publications for them in the mainstream media might turn to making a zine.”

This diversity is seen in the exhibition as well, there are zines sharing the punk-rock lifestyle, the trials and tribulations of growing up as a gay man, as well as small artist books like Grey Boys by Shane Yeager which is simply five pages of adorable cat doodles.

However not every zine submitted to this show made the cut.

Although this exhibit was an open call for artists, and there is a general theme of under-ground media reaching the mainstream.

There was one zine that didn’t make the cut as Ellen Mueller explained “Truth be told I only censored one submission that had some particularly, very misogynistic material in it, that was just too much.”

She went on to tell me that this is one of the pitfalls of having an open call for art “You’re opening the flood gates kind of when you have an open call, but at the same time I just felt like that particular piece was too over the top.”

When asked about what inspired this exhibit Ellen mentioned her class that she taught last semester and how she had her art seminar course make zines and a general assignment.

She also said that zines originated in the 1970’s and 80’s but are currently coming back. “Zines are kind of on an upswing again,” Mueller explained, “they ride the wave from almost obsolete and come back to popularity, and we’re definitely on the upswing right now.”

This upswing can be seen in the sheer number and variety in the zines in the exhibit. 

This show is set to stay up until February 16th in the William Q. and Mary Jane MacLean Gallery. It can be visited Monday through Friday from 9:30AM to 5:00PM.

This exhibit is a nice treat and a great first exposure to the world of under-ground publications.

Photo Courtesy: Sawyer Pollitt


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