The Return of The Man Bag


 Man Bag was a zine project that Stu Mead and I brought out at the very end of the Artpolicecomics run. Artpolice was a drawing zine and it had a very diverse content and many contributors. The regular crew changed over the years and included many one shots by artists we came to know. Over 20 years it became a sort of outsider institution. For myself as the center of the network it ultimately became a gig, no matter how broke I was somehow we managed to get the book together and distributed 3 times a year. New talent like Bruce Tapola and Stu Mead kept things perculating in the last part of the 20 year run but it really needed something that we didn't have which Man Bag did Man Bag with it's focus on sick sex and decadence seemed to catch the pre-internet age just at the right moment and with just 2 artists it was very easy to keep the focus on our mutual interests in sex as an art in itself. Not just content but rather a way to find a bigger audience and make some money. As money does seem to make art much more a possibility even if the Man Bag project grew from Stu and I being poor. The idea of a men's magazine focused on deviated sexuality wasn't a new thing but bringing drawing into the mix certainly added a sort of element long missing in the pornographic arts (in an age dominated by photography and video). Stu Mead's fascination with little girls added a sort of special element that attracted a sick audience that gave us a baseline which made all my obsessions seem less fucked up, it was as if Stu's art gave me a permission to explore my own sickness because whatever I might write or draw it would always seem more like normal sex compared to Stu's obsessions which obviouly pushed the envelope to the point of bursting many taboos. As well the pc art world really had become fossilized by it's politics of inclusion resulting in making the straight white male an odds out enemy of everything percieved to be progressive. 

 Which is not to say we going for that academic wordy trip that the commercial contemporary art had been swallowed up by, art magazines had become academic journals the whole art education industry had swallowed it's tail. We sought to find a new way to create a voice  that was more vital more dangerous and more grounded in the facts of the lives we were living. Perversity seemed to have a set of permissions that made certain behaviors ok and others not, we were like a flea trying to find a way to wake up the dog and say how about something much more like reality like the sickness all desire can be. Whether it's a desire for fame or fortune or just a desire to feel comfortable with one's sickness. As a bi-polar my sexuality was as intense as any one's but my troubles in relationships seemed to be much worse, as if the handicap was this sort of optimism run amuck followed by dangerous falls into the abyss of abandonment. So I had lots of stories to tell that seemed to speak to men's issues about sexual failure or is it the desire being the source of one's decline? Same goes for Stu his physical handicap made his life much different than most men, his feelings and desires similar but his ability to find fulfilment limited by his body's limitations. His art was his advantage and his best weapon for expressing his angst about being in a world where difference was always a limitation. I worked with many artists as a teacher and artist organizer but very few had the skills and gifts that Stu Mead had at the start and together for better and sometimes for worse we were able to create something very unique and original. Man Bag gave us a opening towards finding an audience and letting our voices betray our frustrations and dreams with a vividness that touched people riled some up and gave others a permission to look into their own personal closets for inspiration and courage. Sometimes break throughs in art come when you stop obsessing on things that are not working and dig deeper into your own experiences for subjects. 

 A compilation of the Man Bag zines is being published later this month by some Czech friends of Stu Mead in Berlin (see illustration above). It's been in the works for a while and it's getting exciting to think it soon will be available and this crazy little book will be out there again. Stu and I have done other iterations of Man Bag with some success but this is a different world than where we were when this began in the early 1990's. It is certain to offend some but for others it maybe a breath of fresh air indeed it may open a new phase of our collaboration. Whatever happens it does seem to bring the Man Bag back to life.