Zine culture endures in age of the Internet
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MONTREAL - It's not the most glamorous setting, but the Montreal church basement where artists and writers gather to display their creations has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for lovers of independent publishing.
Billed as Canada's largest zine fair, Expozine attracts some 300 exhibitors, publishers, and authors annually, along with hundreds more who wander through the rows of stalls to view and buy their work.
Louis Rastelli, who helped found the event 13 years ago, said there's a reason zine culture endures despite the plethora of information available online.
"A book, or a (vinyl) record, these are artifacts you can hold, you put on a shelf, that have value over a long period of time, whereas information is ephemeral — it comes and goes," Rastelli said in an interview.
"I can't count how many websites I've bookmarked in the past 10 years that are just gone now, they've just disappeared. So, I think there's still a real need and appreciation on the part of people who come here to buy a book that they can keep and hold and lend and borrow and all of that."
Political pamphlets, graphic novels, alternative comics, and even a handcrafted newspaper full of poetry and artwork were among the items available Saturday and Sunday.
In recent years, Rastelli said there's been an emphasis on "more artistic, more artisanal, and just more beautiful books," and a move away from "things you find all over the net," like movie and music reviews.
Some of the projects were ambitious, like an elegantly-designed, $10 literary magazine called "New Escapologist," devoted to "white-collar functionaries with escape on the brain."
Others were more straightforward, like a $1 bookmark with a simple message: "Take a nap."
Uma Viswanathan, who lives in Montreal, reserved a stall for the second year in a row to sell art booklets inspired by her travels and interest in fashion.
"I just can't get enough of interesting notebooks and stuff like that," she said.
"What I love about this festival is zines could be anything. And it's completely unexpected what you'll see."
Another exhibitor, Jamie Quail, an artist from London, Ont., presented a mix of screenprinted designs and smaller items, one no bigger than a business card, exploring the meaning of the term "queer."
Quail said the process of making her books, some of which were bound by hand with thread, is gratifying in itself.
"I like the personal intimate nature of books, to have an object that you can take home with you and have in your living space," she said.
"It's something that's always there and years later you can go back to it."
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