The Room That Became A Zine: An Art Show About Ephemeral Media

Outsider Art zine Joe Wallace Things I Wrote While Drinking
Zines, also known as ephemeral media, fanzines, D.I.Y. indie publishing, and other names, are often associated with American 90s indie culture. Some of the best-known zines and publications that grew of that subculture include 10 Things Jesus Wants You To Know, Ben is Dead, Rollerderby, and Answer Me!

That is by no means a representative list of publications, it’s just the titles that instantly spring to mind; Riot Grrrl zines, for example, are not at all represented by the list above and they are certainly among the most influential and important works of that era.

But the 1990s was not the time zines were invented, and zines certainly are not a uniquely American phenomenon. One of the pioneering zines of the 70s’ first-wave UK punk era, Sniffin’ Glue, is on record calling back to earlier music fanzines for country music and other genres. In America, fanzines published in the 1930s were often the obsessions of rabid science fiction readers and writers.

I write all this as a preface to this documentation of my zine art show, The Room That Became A Zine, which had its opening reception in Chicago at StudioLab in the Flatiron Arts Building.

The Room That Became A Zine is exactly what the name implies-it’s a takeover of an entire room with zine pages, artwork, and zine-inspired works all over the walls. Those who attended the opening reception were invited to “read” the room and the pages individually the same way you would read a zine in the comfort of your own home.

My background in zines goes all the way back to the 90s indie DIY publishing era; I published zines in Japan, Illinois, Missouri, and Texas for many years, distributing by mail, at local shows, in record shops, and at random in unusual./unexpected places. It had long been my ambition to do an art show that focused solely on zine art, writing, and aesthetics and with this art show I found that longtime dream coming true.

The Room That Became A Zine ran for six weeks as a by-appointment viewing experience, but visitors to the Flatiron Arts building were also treated to a decent amount of work on the outer walls of the studio space for casual viewing. The images that follow are from the opening reception which was held in Chicago on May 4 2018.

I am very interested in bringing this artwork to other galleries and event spaces. Please feel free to contact me about arranging a show with this artwork by emailing me at with the subject line ZINE ART SHOW. Thank you!

The images you see here are just a small portion of the documentation of this show. A full page on the StudioLab site documents much more of this even including detail pics of many of the works on display and pages from zines distributed at the event: Things I Wrote While Drinking, Post-Modernism, and Is There Sex After Art?


StudioLab in 2018

Sound Art Paisley Babylon vinyl turntablism mashupStudioLab has done many kinds of events in its’ run, but the time has come to open the doors to a new kind of artistic experience in the form of sound art, mixed-media performance art, found sound manipulation, and field recording.

That’s why StudioLab is taking 2018 to focus on founder/owner Joe Wallace’s audio project Paisley Babylon in a series of performances featuring five turntables, a variety of effects boxes, video projections and installations, and explorations of themes including America consumerism, religion, politics, and much more as found on vinyl records.

“I am interested in these 12-inch time capsules we call vinyl records as frozen moments in time,” says Joe Wallace, “They’re a lot like paintings in that way, you can experience a specific moment in history even if it’s just one artist’s personal history. I’m fascinated by both the original recordings and their potential to be turned into new works of art through manipulation, appropriation, decontextualization, and reformatting.”

Paisley Babylon has been experimenting with sound since 1997, but the early works relied heavily on cassette tapes rather than vinyl records. Today, Joe Wallace has made vinyl a major part of his focus, but lest people misunderstand his intention, music is not really the main event for Paisley Babylon. “No, music isn’t what I am creating with Paisley Babylon. There are musical elements, to be sure, but the real purpose of the artwork is to go on a sonic journey-take a trip instead of listen to a song.”

Wallace adds, “To be fair, I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit with music in my work, but going forward there is more of a Nurse With Wound style approach to soundscapes rather than what you could call an ideological commitment to musical forms. When I realized that a lot of my favorite music involved some kind of feeling of travel or being in the middle of an experience rather than ‘just a song’ I started trying to feel out how far I could take that notion.”

The first of a series of sound art installations/performance art pieces is scheduled for the first Friday in 2018 at StudioLab, which is on the second floor of the Flatiron Arts Building at 1579 N. Milwaukee in Chicago’s historic Wicker Park neighborhood. Details about the new work are pending including start times, etc.

Sneak Preview: The DeadWax Project

LOGO DEADWAX PROJECT U2 Negativland 12 inch single

In the late 20th Century, sonic troublemakers Negativland found all the trouble they ever wanted when they released a 12-inch single on vinyl and cassette. The single, titled U2, had consequences best described by the artists themselves. From the Negativland official site:

“In 1991, Negativland’s infamous U2 single was sued out of existence for trademark infringement, fraud, and copyright infringement for poking fun at the Irish mega-group’s anthem’ I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ In 1992, Negativland’s magazine-plus-CD ‘The Letter U and the Numeral 2’ was sued out of existence for trying to tell the story of the first lawsuit. In 1995 Negativland released Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2,” a brand new 270-page book-with-CD to tell the story of both lawsuits and the fight for the right to make new art out of corporately owned culture.”

Negativland poses some intriguing questions with all of this. Who owns the record purchased in the record shop? Who owns the sounds on the album, and is there any room for institutional critique of the record industry, and music culture in general via appropriation, mash-up, or detournement? And most importantly of all, what is considered legally fair use of the recordings intended for mass consumption?

But there are other pieces of the puzzle missing with all of these questions; at what point does the art leave the artist’s control and become fair game? Are the sound vibrations pressed into vinyl “loaned” to us for a fee? Or is the vinyl record “ours” to do with as we please-up to and including mashup, appropriation, et cetera? And finally, where, physically, on the record itself, do these legal and artistic grey areas end or begin?

The DeadWax Project addresses these question by appropriating the same release by the band U2 as Negativland did. U2’s The Joshua Tree is the source of the song lampooned by Negativland, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. But for the purpose of the DeadWax Project, there is no appropriation of the actual music found on this album.

Instead, the needle drops on The Joshua Tree (and several other albums by U2 including October, and Wide Awake In America) ONLY on the dead wax on the record-the spaces at the beginning of the record before the music begins, in between the songs, at the blank spot at the end (known as the runout) near the center label, and even on the center label itself.

The crackles, clicks, pops, flaws, warps and other audible sounds in these spaces has been amplified, manipulated, remixed, and repurposed to create sonic landscapes that ask the question, “Does U2 or its’ record label own these things in addition to the actual created content?”

If there is no copyright law broken by appropriating the SILENCES on this record that no microphone has listened to, at what point would lawsuit-friendly copyright infringement begin that is not ultimately considered fair use for parody, commentary, news reporting, etc.?

The DeadWax Project is an investigation of these concepts, questions, and sonic manipulations. Sound art, abstract photography, and video for this project forthcoming…

StudioLab Sound Art Series

Joe-Wallace-Turntabling-Rare-RecordsStudioLab has its roots in sound-one of the earliest versions of the art space itself was rooted in recording and sound installations.

StudioLab returns to its sound-based roots with a series of sound art projects that include appropriation of old vinyl records, found sound, field recording, and other manipulation of audio.

The first of these projects is in progress, and we’ll provide samples soon…as well as an artist statement for this series and some other musings.

The StudioLab philosophy with sound art includes the idea that sound artists have an added challenge when it comes to their work-sound is all around us every day, and it can be difficult to create art that feels different and new, removed from the soundscapes that surround us all day, every day.

One notion being studied and investigated in this work includes the following idea: as a painter I have enjoyed the luxury of making work that is easier to show as a unique object. People don’t encounter paintings all day, every day. Is it harder to entice an audience using raw materials that we experience from the moment we wake to the moment we fall asleep?

More details are coming.

Artwork, sound design, and video