In the block of text that follows the email Steven Serrano sent me is a quote from Agnes Martin: “The worst thing you can think about when you're working is yourself.” From its foundations to its slowly growing bookshelves, the newly opened Corpus Info Shop has been guided by ethics in this vein. Infoshops are community-based, alternative media centers that offer books, art, zines, film and music that you won't be able to find at the traditional library a few blocks away. And more than that, Corpus is a safe, radical and queer space to broach new topics and explore others that may have previously escaped your radar.
“We started thinking about opening this space the day we met,” Edward Phillips said as we sat in the window of the small spot on Sixth Street. Serrano and Phillips are all at once the creators, curators and the ones that work desk hours at the space. Both moved to Albuquerque a little over a year ago and noticed the abundance of decidedly vibrant and queer-friendly house shows, bar shows and arts events, for that reason, “What really spoke to [us about Corpus] was the library aspect,” said Phillips. Serrano, who was active in similar spaces in Arizona and frequented radical bookstores on the West Coast noted that they “had these amazing collections, these amazing archives that you could buy, but were expensive … I thought, I'd love to take this [book], carry it with me everywhere, have it be a part of my life, then give it away again.” Now the two are making that possible for all the avid readers, queer theorists, comics enthusiasts and radical thinkers throughout the community. Corpus's member-based library system allows members—who pay just $20 a year—access to a multitude of rare media that they can take home, absorb and then pass on. “Not everyone is privileged enough to buy these expensive books,” Serrano noted, “but we can provide them … each of these books is going to go into many, many hands and many, many minds.”
In addition to the infoshop's library there is also a mix-tape station where music archivists can make their analog dreams come true, recording from vinyl and other media, as well as a copy machine, where zinesters can print their latest opus at a fraction of the price of a commercial store. There will also be two monthly events—a first friday art show and performance as well as a cinema night—that are open to the public. “Twenty-six bodies can fit in here sitting,” Serrano said as we talked logistics, which makes the space quite cozy. “[At first] we thought it was too small,” he went on, “but we created an idea and made it fit … the idea was to start small and [let the community] give us a reason to grow.” For DIY spaces like this one, it really is all about the community—“[without] that mutual support … it just won't work,” Serrano said. “The more membership, the more support, the more books that are donated; we'll have a reason to create more shelves, more space, different space. … What it looks like now is not what it's going to look like in six months.”
Corpus provides an alternative space to while away free hours, a place free of the commercial grind, with no profit motive, where nothing has a price tag and all efforts are devoted to learning, collaboration and creation. “People keep walking in and asking 'Is this stuff for sale?'” Serrano laughed. Was there a need for a space like this? “Perhaps,” he continued, “Are we filling it? I hope so.”
Moving forward, Phillips and Serrano aren't thinking about the potential challenges, only the expanded opportunities that come with engaging with others through Corpus, and the dynamic potential it has to serve the community. “Every time we give out a membership card, my heart pounds,” Serrano told me, “Now you have access to this weird thing we've been creating for months.”
Get your body to Corpus during regular shop hours (Thursday 7-9pm, Friday 7-10pm and Saturday 1-6pm) with cash on hand to become a card-carrying member or get there early on April 1 to find a seat for Corpus's first cinema night, a double feature that kicks off with The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, an exploration of the life of musician and performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, followed by FLicKeR, about artist Brion Gysin. The lights dim at 7pm.
Corpus means body, and bodies mean a lot, as Phillips and Serrano pointed out—a body of work, a body of knowledge, a full catalog, the human body—become a part of the frame that supports Corpus and contribute to an ever more vital community by becoming involved with this exciting new project. Connect with Corpus by visiting the shop at 214 Sixth Street SW, sending an email to corpus.infoshop@gmail or finding them on your social media of choice.