The Long Weekend – One year on

2 Aug

Tasmania, it’s apology time.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I launched the Long Weekend in Alice Springs into the world at the inaugural Tasmanian Writers Festival in Hobart in March 2013. It’s been quite a year for this little self-published wonder and I thought I’d do a little write-up of its successes and failures … though, thankfully, I don’t know of many failures … or how a book fails … but anyhow.

Photo - Joshua Santospirito

I’m writing this the day after I opened the second exhibition of original art from the graphic novel here in Wintery HOBART. I probably won’t pull out the original art again, my mind has moved on. But it seems appropriate that I reflect on it all. It occurred to me that whilst I was making this book I was living here in Hobart, but mentally and emotionally I was grappling with a project that forced me to not be present, to not be here in Tasmania. I was in Central Australia. Head still in the dust, barrelling down dirt highways in landcruisers.

I was quite distracted by this work of art.

Then, years later, once I finished the book I had to flog it like crazy; I’d put too much work in: it cannot go unnoticed NOW! And so the book had numerous launches in different spots in 2013, which has helped sales along – Hobart, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The Alice Springs launch was by far the biggest, and funnest, and it was accompanied by the first exhibition at the gallery in Alice Springs – Watch This Space – a well-loved institution. It was launched by lots of interesting, wonderful sods – Dr Anne Noonan (who I used to work with in Central Oz), Pat Grant (comic-maker extraordinaire), Bernard Caleo (Svengali of Melbourne comics and great enthusiast of this book), Penny McDonald (NT Film), Lindsay Arnold (Tassie comic-legend), Jennifer Mills (good mate and wonderful author). To share this book with these people made it extra special.

Because of these launches, and because of the promotion that was part of the successful crowd-funding campaign, the book pretty much sold out of its first print-run of 500 within about two and a half months … which took me completely by surprise, so I got it reprinted again in Hobart (again by Monotone Art printers, who are very nice to work with), this time printing 1000 copies just in time for the book to be reviewed by the Weekend Australian Newspaper in their Review magazine. This helped in getting the book into bookstores across Australia, which seemed to be a better place to sell this book than in comic-stores, though it landed in a few of them too. To date I have offloaded a total of about 1250 copies Australia-wide, which I’m chuffed and proud of … given I self-distributed and posted and emailed and whatnot. I had thought that initial 500 would last me a few years, and they would be sitting under my bed.

Whilst I can honestly say that I have no idea how anyone printing a book in Australia can make any money at all – I am very proud to have printed it locally and going to the effort of keeping everything as local as possible. It certainly isn’t a money-spinner, but that was never the point anyhow.

The most exciting aspect about sending a graphic novel into the world has been the responses to it. I had thought that the only people who’d read this would be comic-obssessed people … and I didn’t know if they would get into it, because of the content … nothing against comic-obssessed people at all, I’m certain they would be able to understand such a book, but the book is a little serious and full-on and I wasn’t certain of how it would fit into the genre-focused world of comics … I wasn’t quite sure who my audience was, because I made this book for me … and not really for anyone else. It turns out – there’s lots of MEs out there. Who knew?

What I found was, most people who read the book – WEREN’T comic-readers … most of the discussions about the book that I encountered were NOT even about the comic-form, they went immediately to the content. This surprised me most, because many readers didn’t even seem to really be aware of the medium at all when they read it. Some of my favourite responses have been from Central Australia, where the people who live this content daily can grasp it with their mind and hearts. As is probably true of any peripheral area, the political discussions on the Eastern seaboard about Central Australia have always lacked any real understanding of the problems faced by those who live there. For this reason, to be acknowledged in the Territory was the best: it meant a lot to both Craig and I when the book was awarded the Non Fiction Book Award at the NT Read awards in Darwin in May of 2014.

I am glad that I decided to put on this exhibition in Hobart though, though the content of the book has absolutely nothing to do with Tasmania – but the book was made, designed and printed in Tassie. I couldn’t have done the work in Central Australia. To live in the desert is to live by the seat of your pants, every day surreal things happen, you get swept along by an unusual force. I didn’t even notice until I left. I needed to move away, the distance to clear my mind and digest all the things I had to sift through to be able to work this comic into existence. So I came to Hobart. It was crucial. But the local Tassie community was also crucial with their support and feedback and enthusiasm. Now I have a month-long exhibition which I can show to the Hobartian mob. I can say to them “This is what I did before I truly lived here emotionally and mentally. Isn’t that nice. It’ll be up for a month,”

BUT this is a line in the sand – after this – you and me – we can start dating properly – we can live together in this creative community of Taswegia”

“Sorry I was so distracted before, I hope you understand”

“I’d like to be more present now”

“Hi Hobart”

Long Weekend exhibition in Hobart – AUGUST

15 Jul

Giants and bunyips

14 Jul

 

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RIP Inflight, Long Live CONNIE

12 Jul

Please note – unedited – written on a phone – with cold fingers – I was bored – lonely – if there’s anything that needs editing – I’m not changing anything.

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I’m sitting in the Constance ARI gallery today … I’ve done this before. It’s cold. Not many people come in. But today’s different.

It’s not different because of Jemimah Dodd, whose got a big pile of ice-cream looking poop with topping colours sliding down it’s curves in the Paddy Lynn memorial space. It’s not different because of Laura Purcell who’s piece in the foyer space is highly evocative, but I’m still not sure of what. No, these two brilliant artworks are still brilliant – but they are brilliant right now – in the here and now. I’m thinking of something else today.

In the main space there is, in effect, two exhibitions. On the Western wall is the volunteers exhibition. Mostly board members current and past. Some excellent works by the people that put in long hours to keep this ship chugging along, alive and running, kicking and buzzing, on a month to month basis – even without funding now, same as it was a few years back. Matt Warren’s sound piece is … well I’m not sure how to describe it honestly. Jude Abell’s framed storm-fence wiring is a piece that is unique to her artistic language is identifiable that way – I know of no others who use such items in such a tone; Paula Silva’s Portugese text; all good stuff.

At the Southern end of the Western wall sits Anna Cox’s half-blind sketch of the board members of late 2012 Inflight ARI, let me see who I can recognise there – hmmm … ummm Rob OConnor, Ben Ryan, Nicola Smith, Nadine Kessler, Laura Hindmarsh, Matt Warren, Lucienne Rickards … I can’t tell who the others are, it’s a blind sketch after all, and I can’t actually recall who everyone was on the board at that time, only two years ago. That’s the problem I find with ARI’s, documentation is almost impossible, who remembers who did what, it’s all in the collective memory, and everyone forgets who remembers what, when, huh? But I recall some things myself, I’m sure half of them are wrong. I don’t mean to imply by all of this that all things that happen in Inflight are seminal and ought to be remembered, not at all. ARIs aren’t important in the GRAND scheme of things. But some things can be very very very very interesting. This picture of Anna’s was made just before Inflight carked it, just before Arts Tas got pissed at them for changing their name, bad branding decision they said (not really that long before CAST became CAT), just after they confused everyone in a spectacular way by staging a funeral for Inflight. That was pretty great art. That was pretty bloody fun stuff. Anna’s work comes some way in telling me why today is different for me.

On the Eastern wall … let’s call it the wall of the rising sun, though that’s a bit odd. It’s a bit odd as the metaphor doesn’t work for what on the wall … it’s more accurately the wall of exhibitions past, the wall of history. On the wall of the rising sun is a collection of posters from exhibitions past. I don’t know them all, some them predate Inflight’s move from Elizabeth Street behind the old Kaos Cafe and the Soak bar (everytime I talk about that place with anyone in Hobart, they all seem to say “Oh yeah, that old gay bar”). Some of the posters predate my existence in Tasmania in late 2008; Inflight was around a long time before “he” died and became a “she”.

Today is different because I stood in front of that wall and the history of this place came home a little.

In particular I saw Andrew Harper’s exhibition poster and invite card … from May 2010 – In The Hall Of The Mountain King. I remember that one, fucking triangles everywhere. It was glorious. One of my earliest clear memories of coming to Inflight, not knowing anyone, walking into the opening and getting stuck in a triangle frenzy. Nicki Smith’s show was in late 2012 just before the “change” set in on the gallery, her show bedazzled me and it was nice to see her on the wall of the setting sun as well with a piece from her incredible Bett Gallery exhibit from recent months. Even the posters themselves have a history to them which is separate to, and additive to, the existence of Hobart’s only transgender ARI. They made me scratch my memory …

Here’s a run-down of what I can see

Inflight ARI – Fly there, 2003-2011 – a beautiful poster of pure ecstatic whimsy, made by Nicci Smith at the arts school on a printing press

In 2012 you can see Nicci putting her beautiful personality onto the monthly exhibition posters where the artists didn’t supply an image;

Nadine Kessler’s extraordinary use of composition in the 2013 series and two posters that clearly are not Nadine’s which clearly attempt to continue her language;

Nadine and Nicci’s 2012 Inflight program on the tracing paper – genius, sheer genius;

The Team Textiles party was a great way to ring in the new year with a new baby CONNIE in 2013, and Paintface was a great party to ring in 2014.

Soundklubs and Tom Halls – lots more concerts these days, that’s good, that’s good, that’s good.

The different Inflight logo representations;

The Inflight Exchanges to Sydney in 2009, makes me think of all the other ones that weren’t represented here – Hell Gallery in Melbourne, Feltspace in Adelaide, millions of others I don’t know about.

2011 – Anthony Johnson’s mind-blowing exhibit Two Rights Make A Wrong

Amanda Shone’s INCREDIBLE piece from October 2011 – Atmospheric Relations, anyone remember that swing?? How the fuck did she not die setting that pyramid up in the space?

There’s the exhibitions of the main protagonists of Inflight/Connie in other Hobart institutions – Hindmarsh/Cook at the Long Gallery, Sound to Light with Cotterell et al.

Sarah Jones – You’ll always be my number one in 2012 before she buggered off to the land of O/S – strange weird dancing on a footy field. Great exhibition.

Neil Haddon – comPLETEly transformed the space in November 2012 – it was slightly insane.

I wish there was more posters from earlier than 2009, dating back to 2003 perhaps, but of course – Inflight only had a coordinator from around then, so its likely those exhibitions exist only in the memories of some, and as a line on some artist’s CVs.

Inflight killed itself, and consequently changed its name to Constance to provoke a discussion: what would happen if ARIs weren’t here. At the time it was the only ARI in town. Not long after this, the GST revenue went down for the state government, Arts Tas got less moolah, and the consequent shrinkage of public funding lost the gallery its funding for a director/coordinator and rent. Prophetic stuff really. Thankfully its still going on more volunteer labour, and it happens to no longer be the only ARI in town (shout out to the Arts Factory).

Today was nice … bloody cold in the gallery in Winter and I’ve only checked off 7 people who came in today, not including recent ex-board member Guy “Fawkes/Smiley/Man” Paramore who came to reinflate his raft-seat that got jumped on by kids at Thursday night’s opening. Memory is nice. Things happen here, it’s sort of incremental, but when you occasionally look back it occurs to you that its little boats like this that carry a community’s lives along … little life-boats … boats of our lives … this little life-raft is almost mundane. Almost … except when you look back you realise just how many “wows” it has given you over the years … every now and then it gives you a

… wow.

Long Weekend exhibition in Hobart – AUGUST

5 Jul

Facebook Event
2014 08 August exhibition print single image

Posters from the last few years

29 Jun

Some posters that #joshsantospirito made.
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Lifted Brow review of Fluid Prejudice

27 Jun

Here is a wonderfully honest and personal review by Leonie Brialey of Fluid Prejudice, which mentioned The Long Weekend in Alice Springs.
http://theliftedbrow.com/post/88997886272/fluid-prejudice-a-review-by-leonie-brialey

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