Brooklyn Museum Presents an Exhibition of Artist-Made Zines

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines is on view at the Brooklyn Museum November 17 through March 31, 2024.

Before the advent of augmented reality or the digital town square, people on the margins of society communed between the pages of zines establishing safer spaces, constructing alternative realities, and voicing dissent. These distinctly visual, often self-published booklets proliferated during the late 20th century using newly accessible technologies. But until now, few have celebrated the significance of these cultural ephemera.

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines—on view at the Brooklyn Museum November 17 through March 31, 2024—is the first show dedicated to such works by North American artists, examining how the aesthetic practice evolved over the past half century while contextualizing it within the lineage of art history.

Composed of some 800 artifacts, Copy Machine Manifestos’ monumental undertaking is organized by Branden W. Joseph, Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Columbia University, and Drew Sawyer, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It will also feature an accompanying catalog of the same name. 

The robust survey of early mailers, poster pages, shape-shifting inserts, and unfurled printed matter—highlighting a sliver of the canon—is roughly organized by chronology and further parsed by social networks from the 1970s through today. Presented as genres, narratives include the Correspondence Scene, Punk Explosion, Queer and Feminist Undergrounds, Subcultural Topologies, Critical Promiscuity, and A Continuing Legacy. Much of the material honors authors, artisans, and outliers who drew inspiration from their subcultures to challenge institutions.

Works like Jordan Nassar’s saddle-stitched We Were Here First are finished with colored twine showcasing their haptic nature, while editor Linda Simpson’s My Comrade subverts the gatekeeping of traditional distribution channels with its xeroxed cut-and-paste composition.

Whereas contemporary digital media are often an exercise in—and sometimes victim of—man’s own hubris, this form of slow journalism still captivates audiences. “It is far from nostalgic or outmoded,” says Joseph. “The photocopied and printed zine remains a vibrant means of artistic expression.” 

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