Zine Queen

Manya Scheps’ new art publication offers in-your-face critiques of the DIY scene

By Roberta Fallon
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 15, 2009

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Indie city: The cover of the new issue of New Asshole (above) and Manya Scheps posing with another zine at a college art show (right).

Manya Scheps is bored with Philly’s alternative art scene. And she’s not afraid to say it loud and proud.

The 22-year-old California transplant and recent University of Pennsylvania graduate is the founding editor of Philly’s freshest new quarterly art and literary zine, New Asshole . The publication’s goal is to give honest critiques of the city’s DIY arts community—something Scheps, a member of the PIFAS collective, feels is severely lacking from a scene she considers to be very self-satisfied. In April, she wrote an essay for the inaugural issue of Asshole, calling an exhibit at an artist-run gallery jokey and one-note.

Scheps wants to raise a ruckus with her publication and start a dialogue about ways to change Philly’s DIY arts community. Her publication, which is supported through subscriptions and sales, is written by PIFAS colleagues and members of Philly’s art commmunity, who Scheps reaches out to via email. (The next issue includes a piece co-written by this reporter.)

The second issue of New Asshole will hit the streets this fall. PW sat down with Scheps to discuss her risky zine.

How did you get the idea for New Asshole ?

“This past winter, I was in a particularly salty mood about art in this city. Damon Sfetsios, John Heron, Sharif Abdulmalik and I formed a little bummer circle in which we would go to openings, act disdainful and host a pity party for everything and everyone. We all felt that the galleries and artists were broken records and we had seen it all before. I proposed we start a blog and call people out on their tacit loyalty to the status quo of crappy screen-printed birds. Then my printmaker gear kicked in and I wanted to make something tangible that was as much an art object as it was a critique of art objects. 

When did New Asshole debut?

“I printed the first edition of the first issue in April 2009. The magazine is quarterly—one at the end of every season. Copies of the first issue are at AHN|VHS.”

You’re serious about creating dialogue about the quality of art produced here.

“Yes, I’m dangerously serious. As much as I feel a lack of criticism and theory happening within the DIY art sphere, I also feel there is a lack of discourse about DIY art within a broader academic sphere and within the art world.”

Why do you think that is?

“It makes sense. I can’t really imagine too many professors or curators waxing eloquently about the latest series of wheatpastes on Washington Avenue. But there’s no reason not to. Not that I think there’s anything artistically profound in those wheatpastes—no offense, y’all—but there is something anthropologically interesting there. They’re connected to the trajectory of art history. New Asshole is trying to spark conversation, or to present the possibility for that conversation, because I don’t even know if people realize it’s lacking. I’m trying to get every university library in the country to subscribe and stock it.”

The publication’s so big—it’s like a tabloid newspaper. Why did you choose to do that?

“I really just love how awkward and aggressive that size is. It would be a lot easier and cheaper to make a Xeroxed little zine on regular printer paper, but I’m not sure if that’s very conducive to hunkering down and reading. I didn’t want to make something that could be easily discarded or stuffed on top of a bookshelf.”

What’s the best thing you’ve seen in a DIY space in Philly?

“The best thing I’ve seen is a fight outside Vox Populi. Also Jon Olivieri’s show of his paintings at the furniture store bahdeebahdu. I have a review of it in this upcoming issue of New Asshole . Some of the greatest art I’ve seen in Philadelphia has been the public personas adopted by people. Party Steve is an admirable performance artist, whether he intends it or not.

The worst?

I can’t think of anything that has struck me as being artistically worthless. Most everything is mediocre and unmemorable. I will say though that I really didn’t like the “Victory for Tyler” sculpture show at the Icebox. If I see another piece about connecting the artist with their family I’m going to break some bones.”

Is there hope for new and exciting DIY work in Philadelphia?

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