the zine

in collaboration with miguel a. cardona
assistant professor of new media design, rochester institute of technology

sometimes a seed lands in an unexpected place and something neat grows. in january of 2018, i (kate) met shana m. griffin at the university of georgia community mapping lab’s community geography workshop in atlanta. shana had created an incredible little passport-sized booklet to introduce folks to her ongoing project displaced, which examines the post-katrina displacement of black people from new orleans. as a bookbinder and printmaker, i was immediately enamored of this method of sharing work and knowledge, so i teamed up with a designer—well, technically we were already a team—and we made one for fertile ground.

kate holds a copy of volume one of the fertile ground zine: a passport-sized light gray book with leaves and text on the cover, bound with red thread
photo by miguel a. cardona

just visiting. during the spring and summer of 2018, we designed the first volume of the zine around the concept of “going visiting” (haraway 2016), specifically the call to pay close attention to the questions that are being asked in the field in advance of the anthropologist’s ‘arrival.’ volume one: just visiting brings together questions and provocations from critical scholars alongside questions that arose organically in several preliminary conversations i had with rochesterians as i was trying to solidify my own research questions. it attempts to render transparent one method for arriving at a set of collaborative or participatory research questions, at the same time that it argues for the sharing of process and ‘unabashedly unfinished’ work (jackson 2013). it also insists on naming the questions’ authors (with their permission), as a way to give credit for anthropological insights. insights for which the anthropologist becomes a curator, rather than the sole origin point.

design process. for volume one, we combined digital illustration and design, letterpress printing, bookbinding, photography, and ethnographic curation to create an initial print run of 150 4.5×3.5-inch forty-page zines, which we released in the fall of 2019. i printed the covers on a vandercook press at flower city arts center, using the center’s extensive collection of metal type. the interior pages were printed at the rochester institute of technology print hub. miguel produced three original digital illustrations for volume one, and also handled the typesetting and layout for all text and images. each zine has been hand-folded and is hand-bound with waxed red thread to symbolize the enduring effects of redlining in rochester. thus far, our print runs are limited by research funds and what we can only describe as a folding and stitching ‘backlog.’ if you are in rochester and would like to help fold and stitch, please be in touch.

gallery show. though the original design was specifically created for this zine format, in mid-september of 2019, maria furgiuele, who leads rochester’s community design center, and who is quoted in volume one, generously offered up the design center’s gallery space, so miguel enlarged almost all of the zine’s pages to 13×19-inch art prints and we hung them. the design center has hosted two receptions, in october and november, with a third planned for december, providing an additional way for local residents to engage the project and the artifact. (all photos below by miguel a. cardona).

future plans. our goal is to create and release one new volume annually for the next five to ten years, each with a different theme. while the design process for volume two (2020) is already in the works, we are open to new ideas, directions, and collaborations as the project moves forward.

‘open’ access analog. as an alternative to ‘traditional’ forms of academic output, like university-press-published books and scholarly journal articles, the zines are not for sale. they are to be freely given, gifted, shared, and circulated. since they are not currently being digitized (though that is a path that may be pursued in the future), we might think of them as relationally open access. we believe that part of their power is in their analog and material form, which we recognize as somewhat ephemeral. copies will be preserved in the woc art collaborative library, rare books and special collections at the university of rochester, the flower city noire collective house library, and the writers and books zine library (with additional venues in the works). please contact us directly if you are interested in a copy for archiving.

a gallery visitor leans on a table and holds volume one of the fertile ground zine open to a spread featuring a photograph of a mural
photo by miguel a. cardona

special thanks
mitch cohen and allan phoenix for letterpress guidance
stefanie bautista, jennifer kyker, alison peterman, nancy foster, and michele ryder for folding assistance
maria furgiuele for hosting the gallery show
nef ojeda for overseeing interior page printing
hye jin nae and claire britt for design and illustration feedback
kristin doughty for anthropological feedback
all of the questioners included in volume one for sharing your insights and guiding our path

please stay tuned for volume two!