Back in November, 2020, Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom imprint/project/thing ran a sale. Most of the stuff on offer was way out of my league, and I was deep into debt reduction mode anyway, but I plumped for the $100 “Gathered Leaves Grab Bag.” What is the “Gathered Leaves Grab Bag?” Well…
The Grab Bag included an autographed set of Gathered Leaves postcards (with an excellent little zine inside) and two mystery zines from the Little Brown Mushroom publishing arm… I received the postcards and three mystery zines. I’m not sure which was the extra one, though I may have an idea, and it doesn’t matter anyway. The three zines are: Such Appetite, with photographs by Charlie White and poems by Stephanie Ford; IMA Magazine, Issue #5, subscriber special, Alec Soth’s “Working Wall;” and a zine about 7/11, produced by the group at Soth’s Winnebago Workshop on a single day in Milwaukee.
Alec Soth – Gathered Leaves postcards & zine
The best part about this set of postcards is the zine, IMO. The postcards, selections from Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara, Broken Manual, and Songbook are great, and I’m liking postcard sets and groups of individual, loose pictures more and more, but the zine is where it’s at. Text, mostly quotes from Soth collected by Aaron Schumann via email and interviews and a Masterclass thing Soth did with Schumann in 2012 (and that I probably might want to watch), with other quotes from old photo how-to manuals, famous photographers, and others, alongside pictures from the “Gathered Leaves” exhibition and photographs of what I assume are pages from the reproductions of Soth’s books that Mack put out in a special edition for the exhibition.
The way the quotes and different trains of thought flow together really work for me, and I’ll be coming back to this one again and again.
Such Appetite: Moreno Valley, CA, 2004-2006
Charlie White made the photographs in Such Appetite for The Cyrilla Strothers Project, about which I’ve had trouble finding anything to link to… From the last page of the zine, “The photographs in this book were taken in Moreno Valley, CA, from 2004 to 2006 as part of The Cyrilla Strothers Project, an in-depth study in which family members and outside observers recorded the daily life and environs of an Exurban American Teenager.” And that’s pretty much what the photographs show: the tract homes, prison-like schools, bland shopping malls, and blue-eyed blonde girl that you find pretty much everywhere, or did back in the mid 00s (and 1990s) in most sub- and exurbs around the country (or in the south, mid-west, and, apparently, west… not sure about the northeast). In 2012, in response to some of the pictures, Stephanie Ford penned the poems that appear alongside. My knowledge of poetry is limited to the Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski I probably read too much of ~25 years ago and don’t much remember now, so I won’t comment on it except to say that it seems to add something. And without them, I wouldn’t have much need to look at this book again.
Working Wall supplement to IMA Magazine, vol. 5, autumn 2013
A paper insert, in Japanese, contains Soth’s description of the zine, and I’m reproducing it here instead of making comments of my own…
I have never considered myself a studio artist. It’s been eight years since I rented my current studio, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken a serious shot here. However, the studio was very important in the production of the “Broken Manual” series. We set up a room in the studio called “The Cave”, painted the walls gray, pasted photos, memos, tickets, etc. with pins, and continued the collage. This “Working Wall” is, in a sense, a brain of the “Broken Manual”.Soth, Alec. text from an insert in IMA, vol. 5, 2013. Text in Japanese; translation provided by Google Translate app.
In the exhibition of “Broken Manual” held twice in the past, in order to reproduce the atmosphere of “Working Wall”, the wall of the exhibition hall was painted gray and the collage material was pasted. For me, this is the central element of the Broken Manual. I am very happy that I was able to put together this photobook.
It’s a nice bit of Soth ephemera to add to my collection, and an actual glimpse of his working process (for Broken Manual, anyway) reminds me that I really need to get a big sheet of cork board for my office/playroom thing. Good stuff.
I haven’t been able to find out much about this zine, but as Dashwood has it, it was produced in a single day by Milwaukee participants of the Little Brown Mushroom Winnebago Workshops, and it might be excruciatingly limited… The zine collects juvenile-seeming drawings, scribbled exhortation, scratch-itti (probably from a 7/11 bathroom mirror), and photographs, all of which, assuming Dashwood know what they’re talking about, were made by participants in the Winnebago Workshop. Everything about it screams ZINE, except for the rather high production value. I mean, it has a slipcover…
If it really is one of 30, that would explain why I haven’t found much about it. A New Yorker Instagram post includes one of the better pictures, and I found evidence of one that sold on eBay for over $150… Good times, and I guess my $107 was well-spent? (I might be a collector, but I still buy books and zines because I want to, and (mostly) not because I think I can profit from them.
I found the LBM Holiday Sale on the Wayback Machine as crawled on 11/6/2020 if you’re curious about the other offerings. Given the value of each object in each group, everything was well worth it, but it all seemed very expensive to me a the time, and I hemmed and hawed for awhile before jumping on it. I recognize that it’s probably FOMO, as much as anything, that made me hit that ‘buy now’ button. I’ve recognized this in myself, and recognized the ludicrous-ness of it, and I still struggle against it. Sometimes it works out; mostly it doesn’t. Anyway.
I enjoyed everything in the Gathered Leaves Grab Bag, some things more than others, and will return to some of them too, so it was worth it, even if my fear of missing out was wholly unfounded.