"Beehive" (1993–1996) collaboration with Allyson Shaw included in exhibition documenting zines’ relationship to subcultures and avant-garde practices, from punk to conceptual, queer, and feminist art
Group Exhibition

ON VIEW: Early Zines & Video in "Copy Machine Manifestos" at Brooklyn Museum

EXHIBITION WEBSITE

November 17, 2023–March 31, 2024
Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn, NY

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition, "Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines" will include Laura Splan and Allyson Shaw’s collaborative zine, “Beehive” (1993-1996). Their work is part of the "Queer & Feminist Undergrounds" section of the exhibition which also includes “Truss” (1994), a poetry video by Allyson Shaw with performances by Laura Splan. The expansive exhibition, featuring nearly 1000 zines and artworks by nearly 100 artists, documents zines’ relationship to subcultures and avant-garde practices, from punk to conceptual, queer, and feminist art. A comprehensive publication, co-published by the Museum and Phaidon Press, accompanies the exhibition. The copies of “Beehive” in the exhibition are on loan from the New York University Fales Library where other zines by Laura Splan are held within the Fales’ Riot Grrrl Collection.

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition, "Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines" will include Laura Splan and Allyson Shaw’s collaborative zine, “Beehive” (1993-1996). Their work is part of the "Queer & Feminist Undergrounds" section of the exhibition which also includes “Truss” (1994), a poetry video by Allyson Shaw with performances by Laura Splan. The expansive exhibition, featuring nearly 1000 zines and artworks by nearly 100 artists, documents zines’ relationship to subcultures and avant-garde practices, from punk to conceptual, queer, and feminist art. A comprehensive publication, co-published by the Museum and Phaidon Press, accompanies the exhibition. The copies of “Beehive” in the exhibition are on loan from the New York University Fales Library where other zines by Laura Splan are held within the Fales’ Riot Grrrl Collection.

Laura Splan and Allyson Shaw began “Beehive” as art students attending the University of California Irvine. Both Splan and Shaw resided at Irvine Meadows trailer park, the University’s unconventional approach to affordable student housing, which attracted a bohemian-minded community. There they made several experimental poetry videos, including Truss by Allyson Shaw, featuring Laura Splan as a performer, also on view in “Copy Machine Manifestos.” At this time, Splan and Shaw were both campus parking attendants; the job provided ample downtime for creative work as well as a paycheck. In the middle of the night, they would stealthily produce “Beehive” using the office’s black and white photocopy machine. Laying out each issue by hand, they cut and pasted together visual artworks and creative writing from contributors, including Tammy Rae Carland, Felix Endara, and Kelly Marie Martin who are also featured in the exhibition. For the first three issues, Shaw hand-painted each zine’s cover in gouache.

The imagery and texts that comprised each issue of “Beehive” were conceptually and aesthetically rooted in the Riot Grrrl movement, feminism, punk, surrealism, and a shared fascination with the sociopolitical history of women’s bodies. Contributors were influenced by several artists employed by UCI at that time, including artists Catherine Opie, Cecilia Dougherty, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Ulysses Jenkins, among others. Issues were titled and organized thematically, with “...in a temper,” as the inaugural concept, followed by “Bodily Transformation,” “Pornography for Angels,” “Swallow,” and “Brushes With Greatness.” The zines juxtaposed appropriated medical texts, anatomical illustrations, and vintage advertisements, often emphasizing the outdatedness or absurdity of the procedures or products depicted, alongside original photography, collage, short-form writing, poetry, and listings for organizations focused on healthcare access for marginalized groups. Inexpensive to produce and distribute, issues could easily be mailed or traded, engaging in a broader dialogue and sense of community amongst creators.

Though formally distinct from her current practice, which typically takes the form of immersive experiences, tactile sculptures, or sound and video installations, many of the same elements from “Beehive” have remained integral to Laura Splan’s studio practice. Feminism, biopolitics, appropriation, and the cultural construction of bodies – particularly the invisible currents and molecular processes of the body – are all themes that reappear throughout Splan’s various projects. Recent works have eschewed the photocopier for more advanced tools and technologies such as computerized jacquard looms, 3D software, generative AI models, and biometric sensors. Perhaps most enduring has been Splan’s embrace of experimentation and collaboration as both curator and artist. Curation continues to be a vital component of Splan’s creative output, through her experimental curatorial project Plexus Projects, based in Brooklyn, New York, as well as through “GUI/Gooey”, an ongoing series of online thematic group exhibitions exploring technological representations of the biological world. “GUI/Gooey” reimagines the lo-fi exchange of zine mail art as a cybernetic loop, virtually connecting artists through a generative network of shared ideas. Working together with scientists, musicians, and other cultural producers within her own art practice allows Splan to constantly expand upon her approach while ensuring there is always an element of the unexpected at play.

—Text by Renee Delosh

About the Artists

Laura Splan is a Brooklyn-based artist working at the intersections of Science, Technology, and Culture. Her internationally recognized artworks and exhibitions have been presented at Musea Brugge (Bruges), Museum of Arts & Design (NYC), Pioneer Works (NYC), Centre d’Art Santa Mònica (Barcelona), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Nobel Prize Museum at Liljevalchs (Stockholm). Her work is represented in the collections of the Thoma Art Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and commissions for her work include projects for the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, Vanderbilt Museum, and Bruges Triennial. Splan’s research has been supported by the Jerome Foundation, Simons Foundation, NEW INC at the New Museum, and Pollock-Krasner Foundation.

Allyson Shaw is a writer and researcher based in Scotland. Her writing on folklore and history has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman in the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series, Rituals and Declarations, and The Bottle Imp. Her first creative nonfiction book, Ashes and Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches & Witness is published by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton. The North American edition will be published by Pegasus Books in October 2023.

About the Exhibition and Book

“Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines” is the first exhibition dedicated to the rich history of five decades of artists’ zines produced in North America. Since the 1970s, zines—short for “fanzines,” magazines, or self-published booklets of texts and images, usually made with a copy machine—have given a voice and visibility to many operating outside of mainstream culture. Artists have harnessed the medium’s essential role in communication and community building and used it to transform material and conceptual approaches to art making across all media. This canon-expanding exhibition documents zines’ relationship to various subcultures and avant-garde practices, from punk and street culture to conceptual, queer, and feminist art. It also examines zines’ intersections with other mediums, including collage, craft, film, drawing, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, and video. Featuring nearly one thousand zines and artworks by nearly one hundred artists, “Copy Machine Manifestos” demonstrates the importance of zines to artistic production and its reception across North America.

The exhibition is accompanied by the first comprehensive publication to explore artists’ zines, co-published with Phaidon Press, and including over 800 images of zines and works in other media alongside texts by the curators and specially commissioned essays by Gwen Allen, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Tavia Nyong’o, Alexis Salas, and Mimi Thi Nguyen, as well as an extensive section featuring biographies of all the artists represented in the project.

“Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines” is organized by Branden W. Joseph, Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, and Drew Sawyer, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art (formerly Phillip and Edith Leonian Curator of Photography, Brooklyn Museum), with Marcelo Gabriel Yáñez, Research Assistant, and Imani Williford, Curatorial Assistant, Photography, Fashion and Material Culture, Brooklyn Museum.

CURATOR'S STATEMENT

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines
Queer & Feminist Undergrounds: 1987-2000

The late 1980s and early 1990s experienced what zine maker Larry-Bob Roberts dubbed the "queer zine explosion. " This section's starting year 1987 saw the publication of "Fertile La Tovah Jackson Magazine" in Los Angeles and "My Comrade" in New York, with "Homocore" appearing in San Francisco a year later. The movement that became known as Riot Grrrl also emerged by 1990. Its profusion of feminist punk zines often drew on and overlapped with the queercore movement pioneered in Toronto's zine, music, and underground film cultures in the mid-1980s (featured in the Punk Explosion section).

Building on the legacies of 1960s alternative publishing and the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos of 1970s punk, this period's queer and feminist artists seized control of media creation and distribution to offer representations and perspectives that differed from those of mainstream commercial cultures. Zines provided a platform for sharing personal experiences as well as information about homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, white supremacy, ableism, HIV/AIDS activism, and classism—often with heavy doses of satire.

While music was a vital expressive and networking tool, with many artists and zine makers forming bands, film and video were often nearly as important. Small-format cameras and VHS camcorders made the production of moving images easy. Like zines, these mediums moved beyond local scenes through the distribution networks afforded by concerts and festivals, independent labels and video distributors, and community-based, artist-run spaces.

—Brooklyn Museum Curatorial Statement

VISITOR MATERIALS

How to Plan a Zine Project

Read an excerpt from a guide by zine artist Neta Bomani

Hyperallergic

" . . . Splan noted that in many ways, Beehive and her work with Shaw was a “through line” to her art practice today, which has expanded to 3D animation installations about biomedical politics,  molecular models, and the boundaries of artificial intelligence . . . "

Brooklyn Museum
NYU Fales Library

Organized by Branden W. Joseph, Frank Gallipoli Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, and Drew Sawyer, Phillip and Edith Leonian Curator of Photography, Brooklyn Museum, with Marcelo Yanez, Research Assistant, and Imani Williford, Curatorial Assistant, Photography, Fashion and Material Culture, Brooklyn Museum.

Leadership support for this exhibition is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, and by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Photography and scans of Beehive zine covers is courtesy of the NYU Fales Library Riot Grrrl Collection