Author Erick Lyle and homeless-rights activist Max Rameau talk underground history at U.M. Wednesday night.
Wednesday night, at U.M.’s Otto G. Richter Library, punk historian Erick Lyle (aka Iggy Scam), author of On The Lower Frequencies: A Secret History of The City, and homeless-rights activist and Take Back The Land member Max Rameau will discuss the importance of documenting underground and fugitive artistic, literary, and political movements, in which both gentleman have plenty of first-hand experience. The University of Miami Libraries Special Collections has acquired Lyle and Rameau’s respective archives in a broader effort to document South Florida’s own countercultural history.
I emailed Lyle a few questions earlier this week about Archiving the Fringe (the event and the endeavor). As expected, he provided some enlightening responses.
What are Miami’s forgotten/influential underground movements?
EL: I think the most important or influential underground movement in Miami that is somewhat forgotten was probably the civil rights movement. It was more “overground”, I suppose, but not as huge as in other Southern cities. And Miami was a very Southern city back in the 1960s when sit-ins started happening at downtown lunch counters with black students trying to get served at segregated public places. It is hard to imagine the segregated world of Miami then with its whites-only beaches from the vantage point of today’s Latin American Miami, but the Klan was huge in Miami up to the 1950s. When African-Americans would try to move into white areas they were often met with violence including at least one fire bombing of a home. There was literally a wall built along 12th Avenue that was to separate Liberty City from the rest of the city.
Last night at Sweat Records, zinester extraordinaire and Miami punk historian Erick Lyle guided a good-sized crowd (for a reading … in Miami) from the dumpsters of 79th street to the punk dens of the 90s to the police-barricaded avenues of the 2003 FTAA protests to the halls and walls of the Art Basel power structure and even into the chink in Shepard Fairey’s ego armor, all in the casually funny and punkishly poetic voice that characterizes his influential zine, Scam. We interviewed Lyle on Monday, so you can read more about his background there. The videos here are full clips from his reading last night, and each one is well-worth a listen. If you like what you hear, you can buy Lyle’s work from Microcosm Publishing, including his latest, an anthology of Scam’s first four editions. If you ask me, nothing says “stocking stuffer” like a document of career criminalism, art vandalism, hotel squatting, and generally punking around Miami in the 90s. Ho ho ho.
In this clip, Lyle pursues an “up-from-the-streets art career” by tearing up the ninth hole of the Miami Shores Golf Course and Country Club with a shovel and attempting to grace a blank I-95 billboard with “the perfect penis”, which he ingeniously portrays as a metaphor for Miami itself.
Lyle knows Miami from the city's abandoned hotels and dumpsters -- and writes beautifully about it.
Boca-native Erick Lyle, formerly known as Iggy Scam, handed out the first issue of his zine Scam at a South Beach punk venue called the Junkyard on July 6, 1991. Nineteen years later, Lyle has dropped the Iggy Scam sobriquet, long ago moved away from South Florida, and the Junkyard no longer exists, but Scam remains a vital influence on DIY literature across the country. In 2008, Lyle published On the Lower Frequencies: A Secret History of the City (Soft Skull Press), an anthology of essays he wrote in Scam and the Turd Filled Donut, a political newsletter, about his life and activism in San Francisco. Now the renowned zinester and sometime This American Life contributor is returning home to promote his latest work, an anthology of the first four issues of Scam documenting his life in South Florida as a principled dumpster diver, hotel squatter, and punk musician/writer. He will read from the anthology at Sweat Records on Wednesday starting at 8 p.m. Admission is free with gas-money donations encouraged.
Earlier today, I talked to Lyle by phone about Scam, Art Basel as a microcosm of the Miami mindset, and the fictitious Art Deco hotel that embodies the city’s strange history.
Can you describe the origin of Scam and the four issues in this latest anthology?
Scam … started in Fort Lauderdale and it was kinda a punk rock, underground, activism-related zine, self published. I was living in Fort Lauderdale, and my friends and I, we were trying to get everything we could for free, to seek new ways to live creatively and not be chained to a 9 to 5 existence. And in Scam I was documenting that lifestyle. The first four issues are heavily South Florida based, and then I moved to San Francisco and started writing from there.
How frequently did Scam come out — every year?
No, they were really fat zines, so they would come out every couple of years. They were kinda known for being the thickest zines at the time. The concept was that Scam came out in that form because it was this enormous zine being given away, or sold very cheaply, because the copies had all been stolen. So, it was kinda like, “You can do this.”