Digging the dirt on ex-zinesters
By Nathaniel G. Moore
“When I was six or seven I had a subscription to Owl magazine,” Carpenter begins, taking her time in between bites, (we’re sitting foam-side at a local Laundromat sharing a tofu lion’s mane of coleslaw). “In one issue,” she continues, “they had a page you could cut out and then cut up some more and collate into An Owl Mini-Book of Birds which, in 32 pint-sized panels, introduced each of the twenty-seven orders of birds, beginning with the most primitive, flightless birds and ending with the most advanced perching birds.” After reading Owl magazine, Carpenter studied drawing at the Art Students’ League of New York, and Sculpture and Fibres at Concordia University. “But really,” she confesses, “I’m a collage artist, and also a writer. And a web artist, but that’s skipping ahead.” At Concordia University in Montreal, Carpenter discovered she had a thing for diagrams “because they’re like found drawings and I like book-woks because they’re like little sculptures.”
While working in an office where no one cared about Carpenters unsupervised photocopier fetish, (“This was in the early nineties, I should mention, before personal computers came along and made themselves accessible”) she began to dabble in the zine arts, creating mini-books, one of which was called “Bound for Pleasure” based on a poem of the same name and illustrated with an erratum of diagrams — everything from a garter belt to a bandaged foot.
Nearly in tears Carpenter continues, briefly choking on a wad of slaw, “For some reason I stopped making mini-books for a while. Well, I know the reason. In the fall of 1993 I discovered the Internet, got a Unix shell account and got all distracted with trying to do everything on computers. I made a number of mid-sized mini-books that never went anywhere.”
Life continued, socks and postal codes were changed, and in the fall of 1995 Carpenter attended a thematic residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts called Telling Stories: Telling Tales. “Given the fictional nature of the theme, I told them I was a writer and they believed me. So I was mostly writing there, but still frigging around with trying to make images on the computers…one day I made a mini-book based on a circular story. Because it was a book, when people got to the end they just stopped, because that’s what you’re supposed to do with a book. Then the guy in the next studio over from me told me that if I made it into a web page I could just link the last page to the first page and the reader could keep going around and around. So that’s what I did.” This first-ever web page was designed for Netscape 1.1 and is still online and still functioning: http://luckysoap.com/butterflies/parasite.html. “After that I didn’t even think about making a mini-book for years.” Which leads us to present day reality where our deleted journey began. Recently she released How I Loved the Broken Things of Rome with Montreal’s infamous Distroboto vending system and someone had posted it on their blog like a dirty jpeg. “I can’t comment on it,” Carpenter says, bashfully wiping up a bit of slaw from her lower lip.
“For a real zine person the newness of the web format wears off after a bit. Nothing’s more fun that cutting stuff up with scissors. So they head back to the photocopy place, glue stick in hand.”
Carpenter stopped making zines and traded in her staple gun for a mouse, and has been making web art, “working in the high-tech industry, and trying to write longer more serious work.” However, through the miracle of parchment addiction, Carpenter has returned to making mini-books again regularly, “whenever I have a poem that fits into that format.” Recently she had a show called “How I Love The Broken Things of Rome” at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto and is working on a novel.