The Cartonera publishing phenomenon began in Buenos Aires in 2003 and was spearheaded by writers and artists interested in changing how literary art is produced and consumed. The first enterprise called Eloísa Cartonera has not only changed the publishing scene in Argentina but also inspired many cartonera movements across Latin America, in places like Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, and Paraguay. All of the Cartonera books are hand-made from recycled cardboard collected off the streets by cartoneros, or garbage pickers, who then sell the cardboard they collect to the cartonera publishers and in some cases work on the production process of the actual books themselves.
The cardboard covers are hand-painted and assembled in a process that changes the relation of the worker to his work by sidestepping exploitation of the worker and maintaining the unique artistic qualities of each cover produced. This social, economic, and literary practice is about making a difference in the lives of the impoverished and unemployed. It also supports the democratization of the book and access to literature for everyone, everywhere. The accessibility of cartonera books allows issues of literacy in countries with very low literacy rates to be addressed and changed. Several of the cartonera projects have also established social and educational elements to their program and are using the creation of the cartonera books to redefine the relationship between “the book” and the public.
Inspired by the Latin American cartonera movement, a group of artists and writers in Santa Ana created the Workshop for Community Arts. Just this year, the WCA hosted a series of workshops which paired artists with Santa Ana students to create a book called "SanTana Cartonographies," which sought to give artistic and creative voice to artists and writers here in Orange County, most of whom had never considered publishing and sharing their ideas.
This month, members of WCA partnered with PAS Gallery in Fullerton, to host an art exhibit about cartonera, with the ultimate goal of creating a book called "Fullerton Cartonographies." Members of the community are invited to "give your thoughts, loves, struggles, and anything related to art in Fullerton in the form of words or images." Here are some photos of the opening reception of the "Fullerton Cartonographies" show:
The cartonera movement is, in some ways, like the zine movement, which seeks to sidestep the large-scale publishers, and instead promote DIY (do-it-yourself) publishing. You can see some zines I have made HERE.
Last week, PAS Gallery hosted a free bookmaking workshop, where members of the community were invited to contribute their art and writing to the Fullerton Cartonographies book, which is set to be released in December.
As someone who owns a small book + zine store, I am tremendously excited and inspired to learn more about cartonera, and to be a part of it. The closing reception for Fullerton Cartonographies will be Saturday, December 1 from 6-10pm at PAS Gallery in The Magoski Arts Colony right here in Fullerton. It's FREE. Come by and see what Fullerton artists and writers are up to.