Cheryl Penn’s (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa) New Zine Offers FluXus, MinXus, Vispo, Asemic Treasures

Cover of the first edition of Cheryl Penn’s (South Africa) mail-art zine.

 September 23, 2012 – I was excited when Cheryl Penn‘s zine arrived in my mailbox and I could finally hold it and thumb through it at my leisure.

The care, individualization, production quality, and outstanding work of the contributors make the issues art objects – in accordance with Cheryl’s book artist aesthetic. In addition to consistently stellar mail-art, the zine contains a wealth of visual poetryasemicshaptics and other forms that have found a welcoming and sustaining place in the Eternal Network.

The contributors range from longtime network veterans and even a few living legends to a newer generation:

For this blog, I include scans of selected pieces that caught my eye for one arcane reason or another. I had not intended or presumed to document Cheryl’s project, which has been done very well elsewhere; however, the work is all so incredible I have fallen just a little short of scanning the entire thing.

In terms of trends, I do see a strong visual poetry presence as well as a healthy Fluxus representation, including Christine Tarantino (USA) and Roland Halbritter (Germany).

The edition has a strong opening with Cheryl’s introduction and the digital magic of RCBz (Minnesota, USA):

As with other projects, Cheryl thanks our IUOMA leader and founder Ruud Janssen (Netherlands). I suspect IUOMA again provided an ideal meeting place in cyberspace to help coordinate her project.

On the left (above) is work by Giovanni and Renata Stra DA DA (Italy) – a new discovery for me. On the right is vispo by John M. Bennett (USA). John has been a fellow traveller, more like a guide, on the dusty trail for a long time. I always like to see what he has been up to. Cheryl also included a Bennett poem, and I am forever an avid fan:

The piece on the right is, I think, by Morlina Marina (Italy) – new to me also. Cheryl attracted fine submissions from Italy, including work by Bruno CassagliaClaudio Romeo, and Tiziana Baracchi.

What a thrill to have all this under the same cover! The zine includes this fantastic piece (above) by conceptual artist TIC TAC (Germany) with more of her thought-provoking and completely distinctive, reality-bending pieces including, yes, a TIC TAC hole!

On the left is the other side of TIC TAC’s page, and on the right is work by Roberto Keppler (Brazil), a fine visual  poet, asemic writer, and conceptualist, among other things.

Here is Tiziana Baracchi’s contribution, solidly Fluxus and asemically inclined.

I like Christine Tarantino’s piece a great deal, and you can see more at her FLUX USA blog, which is a “must bookmark.”

IUOMA staple Guido Vermeulen (Belgium) has been producing fantastic collages and poems lately at a dizzying pace. Cheryl’s zine has reaped the benefits. Above is poem by Guido Vermeulen. Continued below:




And more:



I maintain all the greatest collage masters of the world are in Belgium, but that’s just me.



Our own Empress Marie submitted some beautiful (but flaky) visual poetry and a sample of her poetry. 


The zine also includes De Villo Sloan concrete poem “The Bridge” dedicated to Cheryl Penn and her work.

Lesley Magwood Fraser, a vital member of Cheryl Penn’s South African Correspondance School, gave this beautiful work to the zine.

Svenja Wahl‘s (Germany) stylized beasts are among my favs. I am an avid follower of her “Creature of the Month” postings. Additionally, I think she is an incredible collage artist, so I will treasure her zine contribution (above) for a very long time.

And what would any project in mail-art be today were it not to include work by Katerina Nikoltsou(Greece)?


I have participated in a number of projects with Skybridge Studios (USA) and maintain a fairly consistent correspondence with her. Part of the allure is the surprise. You never know what style or approach “Miss Lisa” might adopt on any given day. I think her zine page (above) provides a particularly fine example of a retro style she sometimes uses that references the Victorian or perhaps a turn of the 19th of the 20th century like, maybe, something out of Henry James. 



More Skybridge work can be seen on the left. I will conclude with a vispo fragment (right) by Nancy Bell Scott (USA). When considering the old question about what reading material you would take if you were to be marooned on a desert island, I would have to choose this first edition of Cheryl Penn’s zine.

 I believe the model Cheryl is using for this project is the Assembling Zine. Contributors prepare their own pages following guidelines. For instance, for a zine with an edition of 100, you would send 100 finished copies of your pages to the coordinator. The coordinator – no longer exactly in the traditional role of editor – then assembles and distributes the zine. If contributors are in geographic proximity, assembling would be a group effort and there might not be a coordinator, as in Cheryl’s case there is.

 Many assembling zines gather content through open calls, so selection is relatively egalitarian. Labor and cost are distributed in a way that seeks to be equitable and removes the need/danger of control by an individual or institution whose primary power is derived from access to capital. Rising postage costs, however, must surely be a challenge to this older model. 

 Assembling zines are an established part of the mail-art network and akin to the add-and-pass concept. The form also seems to have roots in avant literary efforts of the 1960s. As a veteran of the Age of Zines, I have seen many of these in circulation and also others held in various archives and collections. They vary wildly in content and production quality. You can imagine Xerox or mimeo efforts.

 For me, Cheryl’s zine ranks very high among any I have ever seen in categories ranging from production quality to the range of artists represented. In addition to including many friends and contacts, it also provides a record of the state of mail-art as well as visual poetry at this moment in time. While many have concluded zines are obsolete in the Digital Age, Cheryl has modified the process and product so there is a digital component but also an art-poetic object.

All in all, stellar work by Cheryl that is deeply appreciated. For more, make sure to visit Cheryl Penn’s blog:



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Minkoo
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 23:19:53

    Just coming in from the yoma where I saw this fab blog. But now I can’t stop thinking about what US grape jelly looks like inside you. Gives me chills. And not the good ones.


  2. minkrancher
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 23:33:08

    Gave me chills too, once I had a chance to reflect.

    I also remember I was at a university where they were doing that food marketing research. They
    dyed ordinary food things like purple, bright green, pink and watched volunteers make selections. So you get the drift. They dye the food a color that people are likely to select. This is commonplace.

    I told you how in school I was a human lab rat to make money.


  3. minxuslynxus
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 00:57:35

    Yes, I knew about your life as a lab rat, but I had no idea what kind of experiments they did on you 🙂 Oh my…
    I think my stomach is pink. Pink is a good color.


  4. minkrancher
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 01:20:32

    I wasn’t a subject in the food color experiment. I saw them conducting it someplace.


  5. minxuslynxus
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 01:35:10

    That’s too bad. I was picturing you walking around with a green stomach.


  6. minxuslynxus
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 06:19:18

    Blue tasted fine albeit a trifle spotty. Not much edge to it. Red was disgustingly sweet. Bubblegum kind of sweet and he didn’t have a sweet tooth. He had lost it at poker that infamous night when the chicken suffered an unexpected bout of facial blemish. Purple – what was that all about? Green – Green reminded him of his childhood in the concave mud. One thing led to another, and so did yellow. Inevitably. Ah, he thought. No. Too many splashes anyway. He certainly would not recommend that ramen shop.


  7. cheryl
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 20:41:40

    Hello you two :-). De Villo – thank you for posting this great blog here too. I’m hoping by now you have received # 3??


  8. minkrancher
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 12:28:37

    Fantastic zine, Cheryl. I can only officially account for edition #1 here at the Overlook Hotel. MA from SA is slow. I apologize to all – I am woefully behind. It is very possible they are still waiting in the “in box.” Believe me, I wish I could just sit & look at all this great stuff, but the demands of running a Mink Ranch are sometimes overwhelming.


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