Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zine Queen

Gladstone Hotel, we need to talk. According to your website, you're striving to be a "social and cultural incubator facilitating sustainable and accessible ways of experiencing art, culture, community, and local cuisine." To which I reply: awesome. Incubators? Great. They make delicious chickens, and help with sick babies. I'm pro. Plus, who's going to cop to hating art and culture on Queen West? You can't lob an iPhone without it bonking off a gallery window.

The issue isn't with the idealism; like so many idealistic projects, the Gladstone means well and mostly works. They've hosted soirees like TUFF media events, they have plenty of available wall space for up-and-comers in the art world, and they do love the queers. They're also part of the bad-ass good-doing gang over at Zeidler Projects; the same brains that dreamed up 401 Richmond and 215 Spadina - hubs for Torontonian neato-swell non-profit folks.

While the Gladstone is a totally successful venue when it stays small, their larger events are kind of...gong shows. No disrespect, but I've attended two events in the last four months where the prevailing sentiment of its attendees has been a resounding "Man ALIVE, this place is crowded." First was a Spacing event, which was charming - prizes! - and packed to the rafters. Today, the Gladstone hosted Canzine, which was, as the name implies, a festival for Canadian 'zines.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of "'zines," the end product is usually a self-published/independent document, often highly hand-made, usually with either a personal ("I'm so crazy/lonely/crafty!") or political ("Fuck the government/America/men!") thrust. While it first started out as a music-driven thing - fans making fanzines to talk about bands - the current scene has a wider scope, incorporating fiction, comics, music, politics, how-to's, poetry (epically bad poetry, usually) and reviews. The quality is, shall we say, on a spectrum.

In any case, the 'zineapallooza was not crowded. It was packed: purses everywhere, eighteen-inch-wide aisles, 1" buttons sliding every which way, paper fluttering to the floor, self-ironizing tattoos (yeah, they don't take up more room than the person they're printed on, but damn, clear the visual field a little, right?), and dozens of tiny rooms that required both an entry- and exit-strategy. It was 100% overwhelming, and not helped by the absence of a coat check, a multitude of rooms, both large and small, and the fact that I am eye-level with most people's collarbones. I was annoyed, and I blame the Gladstone.

Dudes! If you know you're going to have a big, gangbustering event, make sure your venue is big enough! Don't be all, "Oh, I'm sure we can fit roughly a zillion people in winter coats into a room designed for 200!" and then be surprised when people are staggering into the lobby looking like they've just been airlifted out of Korea. Your place was too small. And the folks organizing the fest should have known better: this couldn't have been their first rodeo in the space. Seriously, 200 people isn't a suggestion.

Kudos to the Gladstone for trying, and to Canzine for trying, but it was just too small. It wasn't a bust - I snagged a book on bikes and a sweet token for a friend who is weirdly obsessed with Winnipeg. I got to squeeze a bunch of tiny stuffed animals. I got to coo over baby onesies. I leafed through roughly 300 'zines, saw about 140 undernourished hipster dudes, and got incredibly thirsty. The event it fun, the venue is fun, but the combo was too crazy.

Maybe I'll make a 'zine about it. "This just in: girl, 25, expresses crankiness and annoyance on West Queen West. She has been credited with starting a neighbourhood-wide trend of complaining loudly and expressing a desire for an alcoholic beverage. Story on Page 3." See you next year!

1 comment:

  1. That bike book looks awesome. I have no idea how I could have learned bike repair without so much hands-on teaching from my father.

    I havn't been to many events at the Gladstone - but when I have gone (comic shows, slam poetry nights, CBC radio 3 concert) I've also had the experience of overcrowding. I guess the thing about any site based cultural experiment is that, since the site is of fixed size, its own success becomes a liability. Hopefully they can establish relationships with other spaces so events based there can continue to grow.