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Smells Like Zine Spirit

“The Anarchist Queer Person of Color,” “Quotes from Some Burger Kid,” “My Mom Hates my Music,” “Steve Buscemi: God of Cinema.” and an array of other titles are spread across four tables covering a range of subjects both political and cultural —  bound together with staples, glue or even just the power of paper-folding — it is a zine takeover!

No, this is not a scene from the merch table of an early 1990s Riot Grrrl punk show. This is the Orange County and Southeast Asian Archive Center across from Langson Library, set up for the first annual UCI Zine Fest, held Wednesday, October 21.

If you’re not familiar, “zine” is short for “fanzine,” a phenomenon beginning in the 1960s as a way for people to create their own fan-fiction modeled after their favorite TV or comic book characters. Essentially, they are do-it-yourself magazines, often rough around the edges and made to convey ideas in interesting, innovative, concise and cost effective ways.

Gateway Plaza transformed into a DIY Mecca as tables were inundated with old magazine cut-outs, markers and blank pamphlets from which eager, creative students could express themselves in the most unfiltered way possible.

Christine Kim, Public Services Assistant for UCI Libraries Special Collections and Archives, originally came up with the idea of hosting a Zine Fest as part of the Illuminations Program.

“Zines encourage self-publishing and empowering people to say what they want to say,” Kim said. “They capture student life; in 50 years people will know what students were interested in now.”

Jon-O Gazdecki, one half of the local zine team  ZebraPizza, taught the new batch of Anteater-Zinesters the craft’s basics. Over the past few years, he has collaborated with his girlfriend to create their ZebraPizza zine, which chronicles the tales of — you guessed it — a slice of pepperoni pizza and a zebra.

“Zines are a fun, accessible art and poetry,” Gazdecki said. “They are a special niche of the art community that is now growing thanks to zine fests.”

Second-year Nick Paganini stumbled upon the Zine Fest while walking through campus with some of his friends.

“I was excited about zines before even knowing what they were,” he said. “They’re super convenient and fun — plus you can do anything with them.”

Some of the images in Paganini and his friends’ zines include an uncanny Owen Wilson look-alike, Barack Obama, Taylor Swift and Harrison Ford. By cutting out these famous figures from magazines and rearranging their presentation in their own zines, Paganini and his friends ended up creating a silly sort of commentary on idolatry in 2015.

Also coinciding with Open Access Week, the UCI Libraries used the Zine Fest to discuss the concept of free, public information, as well as to present a series of guest lectures on the history of zine culture.

Emilee Mathews, research librarian for visual arts, first spoke of why libraries are interested in zines as a tool for archiving student culture and history.

Dr. Jeanne Scheper, assistant professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at UCI, then dove into her theses regarding zines’ continued significance over generations in providing a voice for the voiceless.

Lastly, public services librarian Steve MacLeod gave a tour of UCI Library’s little known zine archives.

Looking around Gateway Plaza, one came face-to-face with alternative points of view. There was the guy with a Suicidal Tendencies hat, another girl rocked space buns and Grace Jones earrings; purple hair, tattoos, pixie cuts and mustaches — this was the place for those who typically do not have a place.

Completing the ambience of unbridled self-expression, coincidentally, was a group of acrobats and parkour practitioners jumping off the stairs and elevations surrounding the library. There could not have been a more appropriate distraction as hands continued to cut and paste — documenting student life and student minds.