Zine Culture on Campus | Art and culture

As digital media become more prolific, students are rebelling against the mainstream and taking matters into their own hands through self-published works. On the UO campus, flyers for DIY publications and magazines hang from bulletin boards. The school’s library boasts an archive of zines in the Special Collections section, and faculty have incorporated the creation and analysis of zines into their curricula. So what is a zine?

Short for magazines, zines first became popular in the 20th century as a form of counterculture. A zine is usually cheap to make, photocopied, stapled, and features little mixed media and unconventional page design. Often free or sold at low cost, zingers are meant to be affordable. Virtually anyone can make a zine.

Students at the UO create zines highlighting art, political discourse, identity and self-expression. Celeste Griffiths, a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies student, started her own journal last spring. Titled “Raunchy Zine,” Griffiths describes it as a collective project for LGBTQIA2S+ students at the UO.

“It’s basically just a collaborative journal for anyone sharing their thoughts and experiences about their sexuality, pleasure, desire and erotica,” Griffiths said. “I feel like these are things that students, but also queer students, don’t talk about all the time.”

Griffiths hopes Raunchy Zine can help destigmatize and reject cultural taboos, as well as engage and uplift queer students. “I think they’re really great for the queer community to function as a common source of knowledge,” Griffiths said. “Especially with sex education. If you can’t find yourself represented in this, I hope you can with calls or things like that.

Zines have historically played an important role in representing the counterculture and marginalized communities. During the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, zines served as informational spaces where people were safe to share their stories and offer advice.

“People seem a lot more honest and more comfortable sharing that kind of thing in that context or format,” Griffiths said.

Evan Susswood is another UO student involved in a DIY post. Susswood studied journalism and recently published a photo book entitled ‘Seen and Not Heard’.

“It’s good for young, up-and-coming artists who work in visual mediums to feel like they have an outlet to show their work outside of someone else’s agenda,” Susswood said of why he chose to self-publish. “To have this lo-fi, DIY, low-budget way for people to present their art and vision to their peers is such an important thing.”

Susswood’s advice to anyone who wants to create their own zine or self-published work is to first get over the fear of showing it to other people, or “being afraid to show your work and show it anyway.”

In the art department, zines are a way for students to publish their work without the pressure of being featured in an established publication.

“It’s really amazing to say that I’ve got my work in print,” said Mia Owen, creative director of the College of Design’s Kitchen Sink magazine. “It just legitimizes all the work we do as designers.” Owen added that publishing your work, even on a small scale, is a great portfolio-building tool for students who want to highlight their creativity.

“Zines aren’t meant to be perfect,” said Miles “Momo” Kelly, the other half of Kitchen Sink’s role as creative director. “They are meant to be glimpses of a process. They are a moment in time, and no single moment in time will encompass the breadth of everything you want to say or achieve. There’s an ephemeral quality that’s beautiful about it.”

Looking to learn more about zings? Browse the archive in the Paulson Reading Room in Knight Library or visit Lawrence Hall to pick up a copy of student publications such as Kitchen Sink, Oregon Voice and Avenue. Better yet, grab some printer paper and experiment by making your own.

[Editor’s Note: Celeste Griffiths worked on the Daily Emerald’s Arts and Culture desk last year until fall 2022. Griffiths had no role in the writing or editing of this story.]

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