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Have you seen Stewart Home's work? ...A social history of zining

I'm reading Stewart Home's "The Assault on Culture" (1987). It's about the history of radical movements and how they interconnect, going back to Dada > Marx > earlier revolutionaries and troublemakers.

He uses an anarcho critique, but also seems to try to keep a hands-off approach.

He doesn't include DTP ...or the Net... but he does have xerox!

That is, he doesn't cover zining per se, but a big part of its background.

There are chapters on the Situationists and on the Yippies.

It's hilarious reading about their squabbles and expulsions.

I'm up to the Mail Art chapters.

He has neat observations about what happens when thousands of people become a certain kind of artist, mail artists in this case. He says there are people who use the MA network knowing what it means to do so, and those who just use it. It relates to bourgeois alienation (surprise!) and the dilution of the arts by millions of arts degrees. What do people do who think of themselves as artists but for whom there's no room in the Inn? Home shows various contradictions at play, shows how creativity has a political role to play in a materialist critique. He singles out the unique contribution of Mail Art to the "no identity" movement and the liberation of pop star power via the Monty Cantsin name that Blaster Al Ackerman encouraged artists to use -- and they did. They pooled their efforts and made that one "public" name famous, so that a bunch of otherwise unknown artists could get attention whenever they liked. (Home shows some communal history for this kind of thing via the White Bikes of Amsterdam and how making typically private property into public freaked out the authorities.)

I've always been interested in the interplay between zining and the radical critique players in the zine scene. On the one hand we've long had introverted perzinesters. On the other zines have been how the radical political cells have gotten their word out ... and how they've fought each other over nothing ... and the whole world.

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He also mentions that when the bourgeois overthrew the aristocrats they wanted the benefits that had been denied to them. They tried to adapt art to their needs. Their main need is comfort.

Aristocracy had overthrown the control of religion over their lives. In its place they had put art.

So the bourgeois developed their art also as a religion of comfort. You can't question it. If it feels good, it's good, it's art.

Something like that.

The Surrealistic/Dada phase challenged the classic restrictions on art -- and was apparently one of the first modern atttempts to do so -- but it still stayed in the context of the elites. Their challengers mostly busted them on this issue -- the next phase was meant to take art out of the galleries and universities. To liberate it for the people. This was the Situationist and Lettrist phase. I liked how an early manifesto writer at this point was a 19-year-old Russian, Chtcheglov (aka Gilles Ivain). These movements tended to include architecture and their direction was called "new urbanism." This teen wrote about remaking cities into diverse experience environments with everyday cathedrals.

He wrote about what he wanted to see in life: Nomadism. Potlucks. Public rooftops. Streetlights that anyone can turn on or off. Abolition of graveyards. Converting churches to other uses. Convert triumphal arches into bistros. Abolition of museums -- art to be placed in bars. About how the middleclass struggle against poverty overshot its goal and groveled in comfort. "We'll build as we like with the materials we like."

The point was to LIVE the revolution and its art in everyday life.

Sounds like a zinester.

It's interesting to read about the interaction of "comfort art" and activist art at this early point in the modernist and underground scenes.

I gather that young zinester sparked a good-sized ruckus. ...And was then expelled from his group, or something.



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