Lele Saveri was born in Rome in 1980. First drawn to graffiti, then to skinhead culture, he grew up as a mod. A few years later, in 2001, he moved to London. There, he quit graffiti, started working at Pizza Hut, and took pictures of the city on the weekends. Within a year, photography had become his main passion. In 2007, he became photo editor for VICE Italia. After a while, he moved to New York, where he currently lives and works.
Lele founded the 8-Ball Zine Fair, a program dedicated to zine culture, in 2012. Zine culture is to photography and arts what street soccer is to league soccer: as long as a couple of friends gather, have a ball, find a spot and share the spirit, the game is on. Lele found a place to display zines from the best publishers he knew: Ed. Varie, Printed Matter, Boo Hooray, Desert Island, Toilet Paper and Pau Wau Publications, to name a few. Initially, he organized this gathering to raise money for a joint that he had been running for few months (the now-defunct pool hall Grand St. Billiards in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) to help it from going out of business. The fair has since moved to Space Billiards on 32nd street in Koreatown, where it is now on its eighth edition.
From zines to MoMA, New York’s multi-platform collective is all about the community
In 2013, the collective was asked by Alldayeveryday creatives Jamie Falkowski and Kevin Kearney to man and curate an abandoned storefront at the intersection of the Lorimer and Metropolitan subway stations in Brooklyn. They named it The Newsstand. That project, which was supposed to run for only a few weeks, generated such enthusiasm that it ended up running for seven months, before eventually closing in February 2014. The Newsstand primarily sold self-published books and zines, but also went through a series of original programming, with events such as book launches (Glenn O’Brien’s Penance) or special events and performances (e.g., a live Chances With Wolves DJ set). Eventually, the curators of MoMA decided to include a facsimile of The Newsstand for “Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015,” a comprehensive, five-month-long exhibit. For the occasion, the collective built and installed an exact replica of the original Newsstand, zine by zine, screw by screw. The opening night at the MoMA was like the arrival after a long trip—one whose ticket you can’t really buy at the MTA.
Parallel to the Newsstand, 8-Ball’s activities have evolved to span different initiatives and agendas—from 8-Ball Radio, an internet station founded in 2014, to 8-Ball Super Club, a secret venue in the basement of a Little Italy storefront that hosts musical performances, poetry readings, art shows, game nights and movie screenings. While those invited to the club are asked to leave their phones at the door, so as to curb compulsive social media sharing, 8-Ball’s agenda has nonetheless become increasingly ambitious and socially aware: Saveri recently began teaching part-time at a public school in Bushwick, as well as organizing educational workshops at MoMA and other institutions, and 8-Ball Television will launch in March 2016 as Public Access TV, broadcasting its own formats and serving as an open platform for filmmakers and users to submit content.
It seems obvious that 8-Ball never had an agenda to make it into one of the biggest museums in the world. Their main drive seems rather to be a continuous curiosity towards their artistic community—to nurture and expand it. Sometimes it’s the outsider who makes you realize the value of your own vernacular culture: as he thinks he’s further from it than you are, so he feels the need to go the extra mile. Lele and his collective went far ahead.
8-BALL is a New York-based collective whose activity encompasses a radio station, a zine fair, workshops, events, libraries, publishing house, a members-only club and (soon) a public access TV network.
8-BALL’s The Newsstand, a special newsstand that sold only self-published books and lived for seven months in the subway system of NY, has been reproduced as an installation in the exhibition “Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015,” on view at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC through 20 March.
Alexandre Stipanovich is Managing Editor of Alldayeveryday.com and a former neuroscientist.
Photo credit: Lele Saveri