Behind every zine is some larger collaborative community
It could be an homage to shared values and ideas, a collection of diary-like illustrations, or a peek into someone’s Firefly fandom. Through the content can vary to dramatic degrees, they all share an important role in the dissemination of information. Blogs and Buzzfeed seem to dominate our social media experience and our news comes from Twitter and iPhone News notifications. With such an influx of media at our fingertips, it has become increasingly easier to fall into a hole of articles and “breaking news.”
Though there are many reasons the zine has never truly fallen out of fashion, a simple and important point remains: there will always be a need for a tangible, printed outlet that serves as a social, political, and personal safe-space.
The zine, which is short for “fanzine,” originally started out as publications of fanfiction but has since been adapted to serve as an important stream of communication for countless subcultures and movements. Now, more than ever, people are utilizing the zine format to exercise their freedom of speech and political voice. Usually printed and distributed in editions of 100 or less, this intimate and precious form of media has also found ways to adapt to this increasingly technological age that we’re neck deep in. Artists, writers, photographers, and more have begun to use them as a means for a creative outlet.
Steve Pomberg, Atlanta based photographer, long time friend of “Down and Dirty” artists Ben Venom and Kevin Taylor, and creator of Valencia Gardens, is an example of this. In addition to his photographic work, Steve releases limited edition zines related to his life and his art (a common pet project for practicing artists).
The beautiful thing about zines is that since they have a very niche audience, you don’t really know that they’re there until you start looking. After that, it’s game over. You fall into a zine hole. You start finding artists you never knew, learning things you didn’t know you wanted to know, and meeting people with an undying passion for what they’re writing about.
Charleston and the surrounding area is home to a myriad of zines that fall under all of the aforementioned categories, some of which will be representing their work at the second annual Charleston Zine Fest. Zine fests and conventions are some of the best ways to expose yourself to the genre. Nat. Brut and an anonymous vendor are two of many that will be represented.
Nat. Brut is a “journal of art and literature dedicated to advancing inclusivity in all creative fields”. They’re mainly an online publication, but have limited runs of beautifully designed and environmentally sustainable printed magazines. Their magazine is “a broadly interdisciplinary safe space that values marginalized voices”. This amalgamation of a both a strong online presence and printed product is a common, and if done right, very successful approach to zines in the modern age.Something that we seem to lack in the age of technology and constant contact is anonymity. For this Charleston based zinester, anonymity is key. Their zines contain personal, diary-like illustrations that are meant to feel as though they were stumbled upon. They’re meant to hopefully help the reader grow and develop, just like creating them has helped the artist.
In the case of Pomberg’s Valencia Gardens, the scope is more in line with the documentation of a long-lasting and creative friendship.
Having roots in the 90’s skate and DIY scene of Charleston, Savannah, and Atlanta, it’s hard to divorce yourself from the ever-present zine culture. With contemporaries such as the young Shepard Fairey as childhood pals, this way of life was inescapable for the pair of old friends. The beautiful thing about zines (and any artwork, really) is that it can have a totally different meaning to the creators involved than it has to the people reading it. This seemingly abstract compilation of images is actually a strategically organized record of 24 years of shared memories between three good friends: artists Kevin Taylor and Ben Baumgardner (Ben Venom) and zine creator/Atlanta based artist Steve Pomberg.
Some of you may have picked up one of these editioned zines on your way through the exhibit and thought, “wow, great zine but I wonder what these photos are from!”
Not to fret.
Let’s go on a stroll through Valencia Gardens ///
Steve Pomberg starts us out in the South with an image of the ever beautiful and photogenic vat of boiled peanuts (a favorite of theirs and every other ‘true’ southerner).
We then move along to the next four pages which show us a map of the artist’s home states, for Kevin, South Carolina, and Atlanta for Ben, as well as an image of their earlier works, respectively. During their shared time in the south, they met and became fast friends with Steve Pomberg. Steve and Kevin met in 1993 while they were both students at The Savannah College of Art and Design. Once Steve relocated to Atlanta, he crossed paths with Ben at a gallery they were both involved with. Steve connected Ben and Kevin and the three have been friends and creative collaborators ever since.
The next few pages are a flurry of Ben and Kevin’s relocation to California, legal baby abandonment sites, a fantastic, witty card made by Kevin with the text “chewtabacca”, Europe, skate culture, and Kevin’s “live fast die hard” lifestyle that laid the tracks for the KT Express.
Up next we have some documentation of when the trio spent a stint of time in Berlin, Germany as well as Kevin’s California license that they always got a kick out of due to the devilish “666 Albion St.” address and the superimposed “chest tattoos” courtesy of the San Francisco Department of Motor Vehicles. The mural on the adjacent page was found on a wall in San Francisco; considering the rampant growth in the SF area, the imagery and message “ain’t no crackers building condos here” has probably since been demolished and replaced with, you guessed it, more condos.The Rorschach test on the next page was made by Kevin within the pages of a book* and is followed by a mural by Ben. Last but not least, the final page is a compilation of stickers from various friends and influential street artists from coast to coast.
Pomberg independently publishes his zines in limited editions and Valencia Gardens was capped at a mere 100, so come by the gallery and get your hands on one while they’re still available!
If you miss out on Valencia Gardens, you can still get in on the zine action at the Charleston Zine Fest on June 10th at the Charleston Library Society. In addition to the vendors, there will also be a panel discussion between participating zinesters, discussing the relevance of zines in the modern political and technological age.
*If you have any startling or concerning results from this test, please email Kevin immediately and he will provide you with the necessary help.