Down, Under Ground: Sticky and Aussie Zine Culture

Down, Under Ground: Sticky and Aussie Zine Culture

By Erin Gray

“It’s nice to get outside every now and then.”

Nestled beneath the energetic streets of Melbourne–in what seems a dead-on indication of its position in Australian culture–sits Sticky: zine store and supplier of all things badge. Sticky opened in April 2001 after cofounder Simone Ewenson visited a tiny shop in Amsterdam dedicated to artists’ books. Caught by the biblio bug, Ewenson, along with Luke Sinclair, Alex Dalglish, Richard Holt and Andrew Seward, claimed a slice of the Melbourne subway underpass as her own little zone of independent civic spunk.

Sticky is an important element of Melbourne’s vibrant culture of Artist Run Spaces. As the child project of the Platform Artists Group (an artist-run initiative that has been transforming the city’s underground spaces into critical habitats of relational inquiry since 1995), Sticky is at the core of Australia’s interventionist tradition of “making spaces.” Platform has presented new work from more than 500 artists, and is one of the most visible sites for public art in Australia; a recent pedestrian poll estimated that more than 35,000 people pass through the Platform exhibition sites every week.

In 2001, Platform donated a series of old advertising cabinets in the Campbell Arcade subway under Flinders and Degraves Streets to the Sticky initiative. As an offshoot of the Platform Artists Group, Sticky is rent-free, and can afford to give 80% of any shelf price on a zine directly back to its maker. Notes cofounder Luke Sinclair, “Sticky has supported over 2600 zines since we opened in 2001. There always seems to be this fear in the zine community that zines are dead or almost dead but I have found the opposite to be true during my time at Sticky. Every day we have kids bringing their new zines down to the shop and it warms my little heart.”

As well as stocking zines and artists’ books, Sticky provides the space and tools for zines to be created on-site. The shop also inspires local zinesters to try their hands at other crafts; with three badge– (better known to Canucks as “pin”) making presses, the shop stresses skill-sharing and creative collectivity. Sinclair, an art teacher, stresses Sticky’s dedication to skill-sharing: “My dream is that Sticky is thought of as a resource as much as a shop space. One of the first things I did when I took over as coordinator of Platform in 2003 was to buy a long arm stapler which the public could use–I like to see people making things in-store.”

“Send us 10 copies of your zine and we send you 10 Australian zines.”

For more on Sticky, check out their website at platform.org.au/sticky.html

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