Collaging with Zoe Strauss at Megawords

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The product of somebody’s two hours.

Without much anticipatory ado, the super-zine Megawords opened a storefront in Chinatown, and has packed the month with lectures, performances, and other free happenings. Last night, Zoe Strauss “led” a collage session, though her approach was entirely hands-off. She gave neither introduction nor instructions; instead, she supplied mountains of old magazines, scissors and glue sticks, and much praise as participants showed their finished works. When I arrived, she was pinning up a striking industrial landscape (collaged from old National Geographics) which had charitably been left by its maker for show on the rear wall of the space.

Zoe is best known for the public-spirited photo exhibitions she’s mounted annually under I-95 (next one: May ’09), and has no special collage credentials. She recalled her thought process when Anthony Smyrski and Dan Murphy, creators of Megawords, approached her to lead an event: “I could give a serious workshop…or a lecture…but finally I thought, f–k it, it’s time for arts and crafts.” Indeed. With bright lighting, and minimal music, you could almost hear the hum of concentration last night. David Kessler, normally a film maker and sculptor, sat contented after putting his two small pieces up on the wall. From him, and from two others, came the same comment: “I haven’t collaged since grade school.”

 

Zoe standing at left, David seated at right, and collagers in between.

Megawords isn’t glossy – it’s almost a broadside. And like the urban tapestry it documents, it’s published irregularly but can be had for free if you’re lucky enough to find it. How did they pull off opening a storefront that sells nothing, but hosts free events with vital artists? In late capitalism, (unfortunately), this was only possible with a grant. Invited to apply to the Philadelphia Exhibition Initiative (funded by the Pew), Dan and Tony proposed “more public spaces to exchange ideas rather than commerce.” Colorful printed matter plasters the storefront’s exterior, and as Dan put it, “the goal was to create a walk-in version of the magazine.”

Go catch one of the 11 remaining events. The space (rented from the man who also owns the Vox / Copy building) won’t be around for long.

 

Collaging, and clean-up.

 

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