Sun 25 March 2014, 11am-4pm
Central shopping centre
Broadway, Chippendale NSW
Other worlds on facebook
This event was designed and organised by local zinemakers as a political alternative to the annual Museum of Contemporary Art zinefair, part of the Sydney Writers Festival. The MCA have a corporate partnership with Transfield Holdings, which has become politically sensitive in the last six months. Transfield Holdings are a major shareholder of Transfield Services, an entity that run the government’s outsourced detention centres for refugees.
This event was held the same time and day as MCA’s on the other side of the city. See also: MCA Zine Fair 2014
Weirdest and most unlikely choice: The venue. I have never attended a zine fair on the third level of a shopping centre and I don’t expect to, ever again. The complex, just on the recently gentrified outskirts of the CBD, is a newly redeveloped site and so everything there is unscuffed, immaculate, tumbleweed-ish, and void of naturally occurring human traffic. While the lower levels of the shopping centre were trading, the third level was almost like some kind of developer epic fail: commercially untenanted. It was a floor (half sealed up) dedicated to art spaces.
Suspicious: What kind of weird contract clause did the local council negotiate for this freak of commerce and community, for the third level of a shopping centre to be allocated to art groups? Everything about the configuration of the floor felt transient, like it will only take 18 months or so before commercial leases will take over, and the natural order of retail will triumph. The open-plan space that the zine fair was held in has a destiny of sub divisions and change rooms, of racks and jeans and jackets and handbags.
Win-win: Meanwhile, this was a space that had been offered at no charge to the organisers. So, weirdest zinefair venue coup ever. And the day was a success: there was a crowd. Sure people didn’t happen across the fair by chance like the mums with prams or the teens who were at Central to drink asian bubble cups and try on sunglasses, but just one escalator higher on the third floor a scruffier section of society were weaving their way amongst their peers in the pursuit of zines.
The best part about being in a shopping centre: Awesome lift access for those with suitcases or in wheelchairs. Awesome lighting. Awesome controlled climate. Decent coffee and food court choices one escalator down. And hey you can buy some other stuff while you’re there.
Cat attack: At one point gathering at one of the tables there was a girl with leopard print leggings standing nearby a girl with a leopard print back-pack. Who in turn was standing nearby to another girl in another leopard-print back-pack, slightly smaller. If they had all stood in the right kind of configuration, they could have created a perfect leopard-print cat formation.
Benign: What the wrath of zinemakers looks like. This was a kind of boycott protest action against MCA, remember. What was the impact? Probably, only the organisers were the ones who noticed a distinct a lack of around 50 or so bookings from their traditional base, and they simply adapted accordingly with new applicants and table arrangements on the day.
Maybe the absences didn’t even register at all – the organisers are not zinemakers and probably change in staffing from year to year so they may not have known any differently. I think the Other Worlds zine fair was more a celebration of the spirit of independence. Albeit in a shopping centre. Which was probably built in part by Transfield Services.
Highlight: Heaps of people were inspired to make new zines for this event, so there was a lot of exchanging going on. I was presented with a random zine about interviewing with the headline “Calling from a Brisbane Payphone”. I scored Plunder #3 about working in the community housing sector, a beautiful new issue of Lumpen 12, a thick new issue of I Am A Camera 17 and an australian zine ‘Slam Tilt‘ dedicated entirely to pinball playing (inspired by Drop Target). I haven’t read any of these yet, and there’s more still in the suitcase. The best thing about the fair was that it was zines, zines zines. No second-hand art books, no pom-poms, no craft. Pure zineage.
Most awkward moment: The girl who came up to me asking to trade. I agreed and then she mumbled something and she started rummaging through a brown paper bag and it all got a bit weird. It turned out she had a bunch of old zines from her apartment she was trying to get rid of and was swapping for. Not her own zines. A bunch of zines she just didn’t want anymore. I had to stop her and qualify I was only interested in doing swaps with zines that the person had made themselves. I mean, I could have done a trade and scored a cool old zine, but believe me when I say I have boxes of cool old zines in my own apartment.
Positive: As a political statement, the Other Worlds Zine fair was very low key. Which in some ways was kind of a relief. It could have been a super militant political statement full of shrillness and hysteria and moral judgement. It could have served to further fragment an already scattered zine community in an extreme and bitter fashion. Fortunately that was not the case, although, those who did table at MCA may already feel on the outer.
Negative: The problem with any boycott – militant or benign – is that you immediately create an either/or atmosphere. In this instance, it did create a group of the alleged ‘Cool Kids’ and then those that chose to remain loyal to the MCA.
Political Impact: It’s probably safe to say the Other Worlds Zine Fair event had a minimal impact on the MCA zine fair, but the whole course of events has absolutely undermined MCA’s ‘zine’ credibility (which, to be fair, was always tenuous).
It’s absolutely safe to say the event had no impact on Transfield Services, or federal politics, or off shore detainees, or even local refugees. There was a joint statement published by the organisers on the day in a booklet, but no effort to get people to sign a letter to a minister or even collect donations to assist a local charity actively helping refugees. Zinemakers were charged $10 to have a table. I’m sure they would have been happy paying $11 knowing the extra was going to have some kind of positive, tangible legacy from the day.
Sure, it was a day for zinemakers to realise they could bust a gut and organise their own event, and that’s something. It was good that Sydney zinemakers finally organised a fair for their own – the first time in at least a decade. I hope it inspires more people to become resourceful and independent. Just don’t kid yourself that attending this fair did make you one of the Cool Kids, or that you are some kind of freedom fighter. The whole thing was …posing. Which is a valid political act – it’s SOMETHING. I’m sure it made people feel good about themselves on the day. But that’s pretty much all it did.
Now that I’ve written all this: I’ve made a donation to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre in my own state. If the organisers had collected one dollar from each tabler, they would have been able to donate at least $50 to a local organisation. Forgive me, but I thought that was what the boycott was all about: protesting our national treatment of refugees. ASRC does genuinely great work and is holding its winter appeal. I donated from the site online.
Thanks to: The organisers for making the day happen. It made people think. I wish you did more.