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The Scarlet & Black

Tiny Circus brings zine workshop to campus

Kelly Pyzik, Editor-in-Chief

With origins steeped in the amateur press movement, fanfiction and other forms of obsession outside the mainstream, “zines” are self-published, small circulation mini-magazines created in the spirit of free expression.

Students worked collectively to make a zine during the workshop. Photo by Juntaek Lee
Students worked collectively to make a zine during the workshop. Photo by Juntaek Lee

This past week, Tiny Circus core members Carlos Ferguson ’92 and Katie In ’13 facilitated a three-day zine-making workshop, “Practicing Consensus and Communication,” sponsored by the Center for the Humanities. Tiny Circus is an arts organization based in both Grinnell and New Orleans, La. that mainly focuses on stop-motion animation. During the fall and spring, core members travel the country hosting workshops for all ages at community locations such as schools, festivals and museums.

Tiny Circus engages creative work with collaboration and breaking down hierarchies as the front most priorities.

“I think that’s the … thing about collaboration … it’s a steeper learning curve. The thing about hierarchy is that it works right away: I tell people to do stuff and they do it. [With] collaboration … you have to spend time so that everyone is on the same page,” Ferguson said.

The workshop began with a brainstorming session where In and Ferguson educated participants on Tiny Circus’ open and egalitarian approach to the creative process. By engaging in the workshop, participants had the chance to learn new audio-video technology skills and enhance their creative collaboration abilities.

In graduated from Grinnell in 2013 with a degree in Sociology, but has been working with Tiny Circus as a full-time, touring member since 2012.

“We’ve had the opportunity to meet different groups of people with different chemistry, and everyone’s been really interested in talking about collaboration. I think we’ve had professors and students and community members, and it’s something that we usually do in other places as well – just a lot of enriching conversations. I do think that Grinnell is wonderful and special and it was nice to do that here,” In said.

In addition to its touring seasons, all members of Tiny Circus come together in one space during the summer and winter to create new work together in a high intensity fashion. According to Tiny Circus’ website, “These sessions function like residencies for adults who are interested in the Tiny Circus process.”

Ferguson, also a Grinnell graduate, has now worked with Tiny Circus for seven years and finds the collaborative process highly challenging, despite its rewards.

“The thing about contemporary art training is that you’re going to make a bunch of crap before you make something good. If you have ten people that are okay with throwing things away then it might make sense to do experiments and turn it back. But there are one or two people who just don’t make throwaway stuff and as soon as they start making something you’re all just locked into that and it becomes this difficult social thing,” Ferguson said.

On Wednesday there was a presentation to share the final products of the workshop, as well as several short videos from other collaborations in different parts of the country. The videos were quirky and creative, which seemed to reflect the unique nature of collaborative work.

— Additional reporting by Azwad Ahmed, Copy Editor

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