Jessie Lymn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PhD candidate, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney
This project is motivated by the desire to disrupt what, where and when archives are, questioning the temporal and spatial assumptions made when working with and in the archive.
Everyday cultural research regularly delves into archives without asking (many) questions of, or around it. Located within these broader questions of what, where and when, this project focuses on a (somewhat) containable set of (sub) cultural artifacts – zines – and presents a collection of tangible and intangible archival spaces as potential (leaky) containers of memory and history. Through the uncertainty of zines, and using a queer methodology, this project will demonstrate the vagaries of what ends up in the archive, and present variations on what an archive could be.
In September 2010 Teal Triggs, Professor of Graphic Design and Head of Research, School of Graphic Design, London College of Communication, published her latest book, Fanzines, lauded as a ‘high-impact visual presentation of the most interesting fanzines ever produced’ (Thames & Hudson 2010). The book presents over 500 images of fanzines (covers, pages, websites) sourced from Triggs’s own collection and other personal and archival collections. Within days of the book’s launch, public (online) discussions were taking place between zine makers about Trigg’s reproduction of (some of) their zines without permission. Much of the discussions focus on how academics and publishers ‘should treat’ zines and zinemakers, with surrounding discussions about subcultures, reproduction, copyright, communication and for- profit publication.
This anecdote highlights uncertainties in the relationship between contemporary cultural materials in the archive, the people who produce them, and their subsequent (post-archiving) use, and it is these uncertainties that motivate my doctoral research. Historians and cultural researchers regularly rely on preservation institutions such as archives to source these ephemeral materials – there are numerous collections of zines and other subcultural ephemera in collecting institutions around the world. The archive is active in constructing ways of knowing cultures and subcultures, but there is little consideration of this active role of the archival institution in preserving what is traditionally though of as non-mainstream culture. My doctoral project is significant because it highlights these uncertainties, and, like the subcultural material it is considering, presents various ways of thinking about the archive.
This thesis considers the meta-question ‘what is an archive?’ by asking how zines, as subcultural products, are temporal and spatial disruptions to the archive. In addition, the thesis asks ‘how do specific sites of non-normative research (ie zines) inform a research practice, and what form can this research take?’