With Montreal’s Expozine over in November, there is one event that has indie publication seekers riled up: the Expozine Gala.
For the uninitiated, Expozine is Montreal’s “small press, comic and zine fair” that includes small publications from different countries, but with a strong emphasis on local publishers.
As opposed to Expozine, where over 300 publishers are invited to display and sell their work, the gala is a recognition of excellence within the zine community. All publishers at Expozine were asked to submit their works for judging, and from those submissions, publications were nominated in six different categories including best zine, best comic and best book, with categorizes in both English and French.
But the night isn’t all about the awards; some publications will be available for sale, but more importantly, many of the emerging artists will be in attendance and reading their works. The gala is hosted by stand up comedian/spoken word artist Alexis O’Hara with musical guest Tony Ezzy.
“Like Expozine, the gala is a sort of paradise for people who are intersted in zines and DIY,” said creator Louis Rastelli.
The DIY, or Do It Yourself, motto is something that Rastelli lives by, as Montreal’s Expozine is currently one of North America’s largest small press fairs.
“I was publishing zines all through the “90s, book fairs and such, but [my partners and I] got tired of not having it in Montreal, so we founded Expozine,” Rastelli said. “At first, all the people we knew would be the ones taking part, but after the first couple of years, more people came out of woodwork, and then the DIY culture just grew in Montreal.”
As Rastelli puts it, without the Gala and Expozine, “people must nibble on samples in vending machines for the rest of the year.”
Rastelli is referring to his Distroboto invention. The Distrobotos are old cigarette dispensing machines that now contain $2 works of art no bigger than a carton of smokes. From zines to finger puppets to short films, Rastelli accepts works from local artists and sells them in the machines, with the artist receiving $1.75 per item sold.
“We receive so many weird and surprising things,” Rastelli said of some of the art work prototypes. “We used to sell an exploding pack – basically confetti explodes out as you open the small package – but the cafes we were in weren’t too happy.”
There used to be a Distroboto in the Java U on Concordia’s downtown campus, but it was removed during renovations and Rastelli says it is still unclear if and when it will return. There are still many Distrobotos around the city, mostly in cafÃ©s along St. Laurent Boulevard or in libraries (a full list of locations is available at distroboto.com). Ratelli says the Distroboto dispenses about 6,000 pieces of art per year, adding up to about 40,000 pieces sold since its inception.
Some artists have profited from the grassroots Distroboto movement. Local band Sunset Rubdown released a number of LPs in the Distroboto, which helped them get their name out and further their musical career.
“We had a fair number of Sunset Rubdown’s CDs and they were not known for a while, but are now internationally popular,” said Rastelli.
Two of Sunset Rubdown’s members, Spencer Krug and Camilla Ingr, will likely be in attendance at the Gala as they are nominated as part of a writing collective that wrote the Soulgazers zine. (See profile below).
Winners at the Gala will receive gift certificates for local bookstores that sell local small press publications, but the Gala is more of a collective celebration than an awards ceremony.
“Its all about the small press, people who publish their own works, the independent artists and a full evening’s entertainment,” Rastelli said. “It will be insane.”
The Expozine Gala takes place at Le Divan Orange, 4234 Saint-Laurent (Mont-Royal metro), March 31 at 8 p.m. Admission is free. More information at expozine.ca.