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!