Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seeing the Candle for the Trees

Last Friday night, the 19th of December, I was up in Canberra at the remarkable National Arboretum to perform 'Faraday's Candle', a 50-minute one-man show based on natural philosopher (scientist) Michael Faraday's 1848 Christmastime lectures, 'The Chemical History of a Candle'.

This show was developed for Inspiring Australia, the national strategy for science engagement, and has been presented by CSIRO over the last three years in various venues: churches, cathedrals, conference centres, the theatre at Sovereign Hill, the Canberra science centre Questacon, and now the Arboretum. We've done short seasons and one-offs and last Friday was a one-off. Below: me as Faraday drawing a diagram of a burning candle.

The team behind the show is: myself as writer/collaborator and actor; Carly Siebentritt (Inspiring Australia) as collaborator and producer, and Chris Krishna-Pillay (CSIRO) as collaborator and director. We had a lovely audience of 100 or so on Friday, including a man who had, years ago, borrowed a copy of Faraday's lectures from the ANU library and read them to his young daughter - and turned up to see our show with the very daughter!  And... they liked it - phew!

Above is some natty lighting by Chris: this is the point in the show where I become Sir Humphrey Davy, Faraday's mentor, the man who "...first described the light of the candle in terms of incandescent particles of solid carbon," as Faraday says in the script. To the left, the eponymous candle. To the right, Lake Burley Griffin.

"All that remains at the end of this lecture is to express a wish that YOU may be fit to compare to a candle..."

Faraday's great because his influence on today's world is profound: his discovery of the generation of electricity by magnetic induction changed our relationship to nature irrevocably. But his dedication to education meant that he delivered these candle lectures again and again because they are a profoundly accessible introduction to fundamental ideas about fire, physics, and chemical reactions. And here we are, continuing his tradition.

The trailer for the show (made by Chris) is on the Faradays Candle page. Carly took these pictures on Friday night. A tip of the fedora to them both: great people to work with.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Inkers and Thinkers at the University of Adelaide

Yesterday Friday the 4th of April 2014 I was at the J.M Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice at the University of Adelaide for this:

Which was organised by Aaron Humphrey, Troy Mayes and Amy Maynard, all PhD students in the Discipline of Media. The great image above is by Sydney cartoonist Ben Juers.

You can look at the program here:

The keynote speaker was Bruce Mutard, who gave us the skinny on Australian comics past present and future, with as he said 'some good news and some bad news'. The below post-talk answer to a question from the audience fell I think into the latter category:

It was great to meet a bunch of new comics academics, including

and Annick Pellegrin (French digital comics), Aaron Humphrey (educational comics), Brigid Maher (Joe Sacco and the presence of the translator), Jeanne-Marie Viljoen, a philosopher, who looked at 'Waltz with Bashir'

and Can (pronounced 'John') T Yalcinkaya, a Turkish man living in Sydney who's organising an anthology book remembering the protesters in Istanbul in June/July 2013, and the violence used against them:

Also to hear from people I already know, like Bruce, David Blumenstein (the Squishface story), Amy Maynard (twitter and Australian comics), Enrique Del Ray Cabero (the Spanish comics story)

and Elizabeth MacFarlane, who spoke wonderfully about the process of making comics

My paper was called 'The Land is Alive: the animist effect in 'Blue' by Pat Grant and 'The Long Weekend in Alice Springs' by Josh Santospirito'. It was quite a difficult thing to write, and in the end more like the beginning of an investigation than the provider of any revelations, but it was great to have the opportunity to work on it and it present it to peers.

And in the evening, an Adelaide premiere screening of 'Graphic Novels! Melbourne!' so that finally friends Greg Gates, Brendan Boyd and Greg Holfeld, and other interested Adelaideans, could see it on the big screen!

Great stuff: may there be many more Inkers and Thinkers symposia!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fran├žoise et Art in Brunswick!

On the weekend just gone, Art Spiegelman presented a new work of images, text and music, WORDLESS, at the GRAPHIC Festival at the Sydney Opera House.

Today, Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly visited Squishface Studio in Brunswick, and a group of local comic book people were there to welcome them to Melbourne.

Nicki Greenberg and Mandy Ord speak with Francoise.

Outside Squishface - Matt Emery, Ben Hutchings, Nicki Greenberg with Coco in arms and Poppy standing, Mandy Ord, Mirranda Burton, Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly and Gregory Mackay.

Oh, there's Shaun Tan too!

Art Spiegelman chatting with Shaun Tan.

We went across the road to Ray and drank coffees and ate cake and talked some more. Francoise Mouly, Penny Hueston, me and Mirranda Burton (photo by Matt Emery)

Art and Ben Hutchings talk pens.

It was remarkable to meet these two legends of comics, and to discuss with them Art's most recent book CO-MIX and Francoise's children's comics imprint TOON BOOKS.

Many thanks to Text Publishing's Penny Hueston who lined up today's meeting.

Art speaks at the Melbourne Town Hall on Tuesday 8 October.  Francoise speaks at the Wheeler Centre on Wednesday 9 October. Both of them are brilliant.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bernard Caleo's Paper Theatre

Last week it was my birthday and I turned 45.  Last night I was at the parental home, where my family gathers every Monday night for a meal. Parents, brothers, sister, spouses, children, cousins gathered as usual. And then, unexpectedly, my friends began to arrive. And arrive. And arrive. WHAT was going on?

 Candles were lit, the song was sung, cakes were cut.

I was delighted.

And then Part Two began.

The wonderful Fleur and her bloke Marcus got up (other suggestions: 'Male and Female', 'Marxist and Free Market', 'Mongrel and Flaneur') and Fleur explained that maybe just maybe it stood for 'Fantasist (or Fabulist) and Maker' and suggested that those two titles could be applied to me and that if they could, both roles could probably do with

a kamishibai box of their very own.

I was something flabbergasted, alright. Oh boy. I have been borrowing fellow kamishibaya Jackie Kerin's beautiful kamishibox, or K-box, designed and built by Ted Smith, for the last couple of years. This beautiful new one looked very like, very like.

And not without reason - Fleur had got onto Jackie and placed Ted's plans in the hands of Marcus, who as it turns out is a master wood artist. The timbers in this case are meranti and red gum, making it a darker, redder K-box than the one that Ted made for Jackie.

Fleur then performed a lovely kamishibai tale about the genesis of her idea to make this box for me - a plan hatched two years ago - and a vision of its use

Well, as you can well imagine.  I was staggered and astonished and absolutely delighted. The box was placed on Leopold, my bike, wheeled in for the occasion, and I managed to blather a few words about sophrosyne and poiesis and the Ancient Greeks before just saying, thanks.

And again, thanks. To my family, to my friends, to Jackie Kerin, for smuggling the plans across the border, and for the photos in this post, to my wife Susan for her part in all this wonderful skulduggery, and to Fleur and to Marcus, builders of dreams.


It's time to get writing and drawing and performing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

'Graphic Novels! Melbourne!' in Paris!

Back in January 2013, Daniel Hayward and I climbed aboard a big big aeroplane to begin a three-week European tour presenting our documentary feature film, Graphic Novels! Melbourne! in France, Germany and England. International man of mystery Bruce Woolley accompanied us as far as Dubai, where we bid him a fond farewell, but only for a week (more of him anon). Dan and I flew on to Paris.

So, it's been 20 years since I've been in Paris, and Dan had never been before, and it was magnifique. Our lovely friend Dominique lent us an empty apartment in the Rue de Reuilly, near the Gare de Lyon, to stay in for the few nights we were there.

That's me spending some quality time with my good mate Corto Maltese, created by the great Italian cartoonist Hugo Pratt (RIP).

On our first night we rendezvoused at Notre Dame cathedral with our Sydney friends, academics Adam and Alphia and their son Addison (that's Addison looking around Alphia's hair) and talked and ate and walked and talked.

The following morning, early (the streets dark and wet, the smell of the morning baguettes wafting deliciously out of the boulangeries) we rendezvoused at Charonne Metro with Melbourne artist friend Lily and her friend writer Maude and went and had coffee and croissants for our petit dejeuner.

Then returned to our digs, toasted our good luck and went back to bed.

After a snooze (ah, jet lag, you old fiend!), we visited Lily's exhibition in Belleville, and around the corner dropped into a bookshop and marvelled at the selection of comics, or rather BD (bande dessinees) on display. Like true colonials, however, we were most delighted to find Pat Grant's 'BLUE' in its French edition (published by Ankama) and 

some Mandy Ord in an edition of the anthology 'Turkey Comics' (published by The Hoochie Coochie - the French publisher of Gregory Mackay's 'Francis Bear' books too).

We spent a great evening with Gilbert Shelton, who took us to a brilliant tea shop/comic shop 'The-Troc', in the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, run by his friend Ferid, who took this picture, and by that time, as you can see, things were getting beery...

NEXT: Angouleme

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Mongrel Lives!

At the beginning of last year, 2012, I began a 'monthly comics pamphlet' called MONGREL. I asked people to subscribe to it, and undertook to send them 12 issues in 12 months.

MONGREL is a comic book which when complete will answer the question which keeps me awake at night: 'Is Australia real?'  It stars 'The Uncanny Expats', 'The Creatives', and 'Salvation Jane'.

And during 2012, copies of the issues went to some interesting places: here's MONGREL 5 on Park Street Boston, with the Massachusetts State House in the background, in which, my friend Narayan Khandekar assures me, the sacred cod is kept.

Here's issue 5 again, this time in Braidwood New South Wales, at an exhibition called 'Taking The Piss' curated by Julian Davies at The Left Hand Gallery in September 2012. There's some original artwork displayed next to some working drawings, some writing notes, and an envelope containing all the pencil rubbings that I erased off every page of the 8-page issue in getting it ready for printing.

And yes, to the left there is a selection of work by the wonderful Michael Fikaris, a great Melbourne cartoonist.

I was interviewed by MILK magazine about making comics, and the article featured some artwork from MONGREL 6, showing the stages of a page in progress. The article also featured, as the lead image, a remarkable portrait of me painted by Gina Kalabishis, titled 'Comic Man'

I was the September blogger in residence at Inside a Dog , the Young Adult literature website, in which I wrote and posted pictures about the process of writing MONGREL 7. Now when I say that I am only now getting around to actually drawing that issue, four months later now in January 2013, you will see the slight discrepancy between that pace and publishing a monthly comic.

I blame it all on becoming a filmmaker. In 2012, with Daniel Hayward, I made the film 'Graphic Novels! Melbourne!', which examines comic book culture in Melbourne and which you can find out a lot more about here. We premiered it in November 2012 and next week we are taking the film to the great comic festival in Angouleme, in France. And then on to Berlin, Hamburg and London.

Exciting, yes, but it plays havoc with the MONGREL production schedule!

But never fear - I knew you weren't about to - MONGREL will continue to be made throughout 2013, and by the end of the year, the full 12 issue series will be complete.  And so, particularly if you're a MONGREL subscriber, don't you worry about a thing.  MONGREL issues 7 - 12 are coming.

Unless I start work on another film...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Back on RRR, and Writers Fest 2012 wrap

I was back on 'Smart Arts' on 3RRR FM with Richard Watts this Thursday morning just gone, and I spoke about a few comic books which were part of the 'Skinny Arse Comics Launch', itself part of the Melbourne Writers Festival 2012.

'The Trials of Francis Bear', above, by Gregory Mackay, continues to follow the hapless, sometimes hopeless, inebriate and unemployed stuffed bear. Unlike the previous simply eponymous collection, this new book has more of a narrative arc running through the whole book. Similarly however to the previous book, it is hilarious and beautifully cartooned.

'All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off A Bridge! by J Marc Schmidt is also very funny and also cleanly and confidently drawn, but it is more varied in its offerings - it is a generous compendium of short stories that J. Marc originally posted to the web. Many of them are experimental, with some of them having an almost improvised sense about them.  Here we are watching someone experiment with the medium, stretching it and toying with it - there's great work in this book.

Both of the above have been published by James Andre's excellent Milk Shadow Books - go there and buy multiple copies of both!

Another Melbourne publisher is Matt Emery who publishes under the name of Pikita Press, and he launched 

at Skinny Arse: Peter Foster had his adaptation of the 1874 Australian convict classic published in black and white in 1986 by Greenhouse Press, and it's taken 26 years and a lot of work by Peter on the computer to get it out in colour.


Also at the Festival I was honoured to be on a panel in the Schools Program, 'Drawn to Stories' with local cartoonist Oslo Davis

And London illustrator/cartoonist/pictorial theorist Joanna Walsh, aka Badaude, whose book 'London Walks' is a remarkable walking guide to many different areas of London.

Joanna, Oslo and I talked about drawing as a way of discovering, as a way of thinking, as a way of writing. Then I threw a whole lot of stalks of silver beet (which Joanna called 'chard') at the audience, which went down surprisingly well.