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Mixed Media at the Papercut

Cultural staples
By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  November 18, 2008

A still from E.J. Barnes' animated short, The Leatherwing Bat

Last Saturday's mixed-bill affair at the Papercut Zine Library was a strange hybrid of contemporary salon, multimedia talent show, and impromptu modern-dance class (with instructions to move our bodies "like fire"). Around these parts, such an event may be possible only at Papercut, the volunteer-staffed 'zine-lending venue that occupies the creaky, wood-paneled first floor of the Democracy Center on Mount Auburn Street in Harvard Square.

At first, wandering in felt like trespassing on a stranger's house party. Folding chairs littered a back room where the performances took place, the audience strolling in and out in the course of the evening. When Zine librarian Rachel Suskewicz instructed us to sing along with one of her sparse folk tunes, we did so ungrudgingly. After her set, a man in a gray hoodie assured us with endearing concern: "In case you're confused, don't leave yet! There are plenty more acts to come."

And there were. Librarians passed around coffee filters filled with popcorn before projecting three short films - one a documentary from locals Jessica Schumann and David Uber about WMBR DJ John Funke, another an inspired animation by E.J. Barnes that the audience unanimously agreed to watch twice. "The Leatherwing Bat" displays vivid, painted imagery of birds morphing and shape-shifting while the filmmaker sings the title folk song. Sporting salt-and-pepper hair and an Indiana Jones hat, Barnes was humble in introducing her effort, the product of three years' work, as she created 1100 gouache paintings and recorded the song in her living room. (This type of DIY ethos was another theme of the evening.)

Feminist 'zine author Cindy Crabb, the billed headliner, spoke about her autobiographical 'zine, Doris, and her quest as an abuse survivor to make abuse a non-taboo conversation topic. Later, a dwindled assembly head-bobbed to Crabb's screamo mostly-girl band Sister Shuffle. "This is a song about the things we're afraid of," she announced as she gripped a crimson electric guitar. "And how those are the things we need to learn to love."

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