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?