Small Press Explo- Behind the Zines: Self-Publishing Culture

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Behind the Zines: Self Publishing Culture is a new book edited by Robert Klanten, Adeline Mollard, and Mattias Hübner. It is a beautiful volume. The metallic red hot-stamped foil text adorn a lovely fabric cover, the visibly designed coptic binding.

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The beyond it’s appeal as an object to keep your coffee table from floating away, the editors of Behind the Zines have produced something quite remarkable, a concise visual history of the latest chapter in zine history. In the U.S., our understanding of zines is often couched in the history of self-publishing, most articles and books on the subject tend to focus on the Fanzines of the Modern era, or the Punk and Grrrl Zines of the Post-Modern. This book really only gives a nod to those bodies of work and instead places itself chronologically on the late 2000’s and geographically in Europe (with a handful of American projects in the mix).

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Lots more of everything after the jump.

In this case, the near now is comprised of a poly-vocal chorus that is nearly impossible to summarize thematically, but for brevity’s sake let’s say, any & all content is welcome, as long as it’s driven by conceptual design and available technology.  The editors do a good job of corralling all the various aesthetic voices into several curatorial categories, Gallery, Laboratory, Kiosk, Archive and Theater.

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The book itself is image heavy choosing to show as much of each publication reviewed as possible. The beautifully documented images are intermixed with several written forms, short descriptions of each publisher’s project, a longer description with greater cultural context, or, in some cases a full interview with the publisher in question. The interviews provide the most insight into the small press/self-publishing world being explored in the book.

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Gestalten, the Berlin-based publishers of this beautifully designed book describe it:

Behind the Zines introduces a cutting-edge selection of international zines and examines their role as a catalyst in the evolution of media and graphic design today. The book presents the broad range of existing zines that combine thought-provoking content with compelling design: from project-oriented portfolios and (pseudo) scientific treatises to playrooms where creatives can run riot and publications in which the printing process significantly influences aesthetics. It not only describes the key factors that distinguish various zines, but—through interviews with people involved in their production and distribution—also sheds light on various strategies for this evolving media form.

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Beyond an unhealthy obsession with Manystuffs, most of the publications contained in Behind the Zines were entirely new to me. It’s clear that a generation of European designers are pushing the zine and self-publishing into a new and exciting space.

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I did my best to match the tiny hands from the pictures in the book. I love those tiny hands.

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Thanks to The Book of Zines for providing such useful background for this review.

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