Print and Resist Zinefest will take place on April 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Central branch of the Madison Public Library. The event is free to attend and open to all, though masks are required and some viewer discretion is advised. In true DIY fashion, creators will not be censored.
We’ve all become familiar with the power of media — maybe you’ve got a QAnon uncle, or a tweenage cousin who gets all their opinions off of Twitter. Either way, print, whether digital or analog, remains a keystone of society.
Printing often feels inaccessible, but it doesn’t have to be. You can absolutely create whatever publication you’d like to see on the stands, maybe next to our paper! If you want to, you can start an independent paper, but there’s an easier option — zines.
Zines, shortened from magazines, are independently made and published printings on practically whatever topic you want. With origins in fan culture, Star Trek lurks over us always, zines have long been a means of disseminating counterculture rhetoric and art. Zines, when done traditionally, are about as DIY as it gets.
Madison is home to a vibrant zine culture centered around the annual Print and Resist Zinefest. At Print and Resist, artists, activists and advocates gather for a day of printmaking and sharing. The topics vary. There’s explainers on how to use Narcan, existential cartoons about the nature of consciousness and plenty of cool art in general.
Jennifer Bastian, Print and Resist organizer and Communication (a Madison nonprofit) director, has tried her hand at printing many times and experienced the joy of independent publishing. She’s an artist and photographer whose most recent work, “Worried Triangle,” focuses on drawings requested by her daughter during the height of the pandemic.
“I came of age during Riot Grrl culture,” Jennie laughed. “I’ve done some collage screenprinting.”
Zines cover a vast spectrum of mediums and can be both digital or physical. There are lots of opportunities, which Print and Resist seeks to connect local artists to.
Speaking of digital, why would anyone bother making a physical zine when we’ve got basically unlimited processing power at our fingertips? Well, for Jennie, it’s cyberpunk-style resistance.
“I don't want everything I think to be in a cloud. I want tangible things I can touch, handle, look at. I want those in my life forever.”
Jennie also feels it’s important for artists to have multiple ways of disseminating their work, especially in the age of the Metaverse.
“I also don't trust the internet. I don’t trust Facebook. I don’t trust Instagram. I want my work to exist outside of these businesses that only take from us; they're not giving, they just take our content. I want there to be other options.”
Anyone can make a zine. Anyone. You don’t have to be good at art, writing or really anything except for having ideas. Being a little rough around the edges is part of what gives zines their charm — and power. This is reflected in Print and Resist vendors; the organization actively seeks out newbies.
“Especially you!” Jennie exclaimed. “Especially the person who's never made anything or showed it to anyone, we want you.”
This year, Print and Resist is returning to its ancestral home, the Madison Public Library, albeit with COVID precautions in place — masks will be required, regardless of Dane County guidelines.
The team couldn’t be more excited — “[Madison Public Library] has been a champion of the arts and independent publishing and DIY for a long time now,” Jennie said.
The relationship between zines and public libraries is rich. Libraries have long been bastions of resistance, against ignorance, apathy and hate, and the Madison Public Library is helping to continue that legacy.
It’s also a matter of accessibility. The Madison Public Library is free, large and ADA accessible, and it offers a home to those people who society often shuns.
“I know that’s one of the places I feel safe,” Jennie said.
If you’re interested in independent publishing, Jennie offered some of her favorite zines as suggestions for inspiration: “Against Competition” by Half Letter Press, Abolish Time by Estelle Ellison, and basically anything by Ashley Hartman Annis (especially their sex ed zines). Even if you’re not into any of these, the possibilities for a zine are endless - the frog you saw three months ago, the latest gossip at Plaza…it’s all art fodder!