Josh has a piece in this amazing anthology -
Fluid Prejudice is a collection of comics and drawings focusing on underrepresented, marginalised and alternative visions of Australian history.
50 artists, 175 pages
edited by the wonderful Sam Wallman
You can buy it at Sam’s website – PENERASEPAPER
On Thursday of this week I’ll be presenting a talk in Hobart at the Tas Writers Centre – Adaptation, comics, cultures.
I’ll be showing some bits and bobs about the process of adapting an academic essay into a long-form comic, the trials, tribulations, headaches and successes. I found this process endlessly fascinating – grappling with this difficult beast involves the mechanics of both mediums involved – prose and comics. I’ll have a chat about the various things that you can and can’t do with both mediums, how emphasis changes and how meanings can shift as you reimagine the same content into a different form.
Blair lives and works in Alice Springs – a local colour. He has worked for CAYLUS for a very long time and has been doing cartoons for a very very long timee. In May 2013, when I held the launch for The Long Weekend in Alice Springs – he came up to me with his sketchbook and showed me some responses to my work – the first one had me in hysterics … mainly because he nailed the experience of working out there so damn well … not certain who is going to get some of these cartoons … don’t care. The last one is about the local Alice Springs dreaming.
I was a bit surprised but very chuffed (I must say!) to find this morning that The Long Weekend in Alice Springs had been awarded the Comicoz Award for Best Australian Original Comic Book for 2013!
Thanks to Nat Karmichael and Comicoz – very much appreciated.
The ARAS website is now featuring The Long Weekend in Alice Springs!
The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) is a pictorial and written archive of mythological, ritualistic, and symbolic images from all over the world and from all epochs of human history. The collection probes the universality of archetypal themes and provides a testament to the deep and abiding connections that unite the disparate factions of the human family.
The ARAS archive contains about 17,000 photographic images, each cross-indexed, individually mounted, and accompanied by scholarly commentary. The commentary includes a description of the image with a cultural history that serves to place it in its unique historical and geographical setting. Often it also includes an archetypal commentary that brings the image into focus for its modern psychological and symbolic meaning, as well as a bibliography for related reading and a glossary of technical terms.
You can buy The Long Weekend in Alice Springs at the SanKessto Publications website
This is Craig San Roque’s intro to the graphic novel on the website“From my perspective as a depth psychologist, I see that those who have a connection with story are in better shape and have a better prognosis than those to whom story must be introduced – to have ‘story awareness’ is per se psychologically therapeutic. It is good for soul. Coming early with life it is already a perspective to life. One integrates life as story because one has stories in the back of the mind”
-James Hillman, A Note on Story in Loose Ends.
And what if one lives in a place that has stories already there in the backyards of the town. What if one lives in a town that sits in the midst of stories and at a location that is a site of ancient and sacred stories humming away in the back of the mind. What if the minds, hearts and bodies of the people who dwell there are overshadowed by the mountain, the rocks, the rivers, the trees that are embodiments of the stories, images, myths of the peoples who have lived there for millennia and live there still – under the influence of mythic actions, symbolic trees, rocks, mountains, even if those mythic actions, those scenes, have been shoved to the back of the mind.
Alice Springs, the town where I live, is one such place. It is a border town in arid desert regions in the center of Australia. It is 1,7000 km (1,000 miles) from the nearest cities. It was established maybe 130 years ago as an outpost of the British colonization of the Australian continent. It is built right smack on top of indigenous tribal lands of the Arrerente peoples. Alice Springs, as it is known in English, is also known as Mparntwe or Mbantua in the Arrernte Aboriginal tongue.
Like many other border towns in the Americas, Africa, and Asia where indigenous people meet the incoming rampage of another and different civilization, the original landforms of Mbantua (Alice Springs, Australia) embody the traditional mythological stories of the people. The mountain range surrounding the town embodies a mythic creation story. The rocks and trees and river in Arrernte myth are living presences exerting mental influence. Mythic creatures and stories animate the landscape. You walk out your front door and you can see the story of the Dog embedded in the mountain range; walk out your back door and you can see the trees that represent mythic women dancing in ceremony. The townsfolk live in ancient time and in real time in a most interesting, continuous and yet ordinary way. It is this notion of depicting intersecting realities that The Long Weekend in Alice Spring attempts.
-Craig San Roque
I’m super pleased that Kieran has been awarded the 2013 Lofty Award in Alice Springs at Watch This Space artist run initiative. She has been an important arts writer in Central Australia, giving the whole scene such a considered and careful focus. Below is the article she wrote about The Long Weekend in Alice Springs in May of 2013 – the original can be read here. You can see here an example of her poetic criticism which is constructive and positive in a manner which is rare in arts writing.
Haunting excursion into Alice’s psyche
Review by KIERAN FINNANE
The cover of The Long Weekend in Alice Springs suggests that the story between its covers will be road trip. And it is one, of sorts. You won’t find these roads on any map but they will lead you into the byways of this desert place, reaching back through history into stories of origin, reaching out through darkness, real and metaphoric, into stories of now.
The starting points are several, all at once. There’s the meeting of Joshua Santospirito and Craig San Roque, a young man and an older man, one a psychiatric nurse with a drawing gift, the other a psychologist with a lyric gift. There’s a campfire and in its flickering light, a woman in mourning. Her husband has died but her grief goes deeper than this. There’s a book of quite a different order, Jungian explorations of the contemporary world, and a request for San Roque to make a contribution.
So, setting out from the meeting of the two men, for the sake of simplicity in this text, with its limited means of typed words on a screen, destined for a journalism site. These are limits that The Long Weekend is marvellously liberated from, due to its form as a ‘graphic novel’ or ‘comic’ (words that don’t quite rightly describe it); due to Santospirito’s artistry; due to the soaring and delving of San Roque’s mind and pen.
Santospirito, frustrated and raw from his experience of working in remote mental health, met San Roque, seasoned by long years of the same, but also resilient from a deep nourishment – as we learn from his essay at the end of the book – by Jungian psychoanalysis, thought and practice. San Roque gave Santospirito some of his writings, including an essay, ‘A Long Weekend in Alice Springs’, his contribution to The Cultural Complex: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives on Psyche and Society, edited by Thomas Singer and Samuel L. Kimbles (Brunner-Routledge, 2004).
There was no sudden illumination that explained everything or showed a way forward but Santospirito found the writings “somehow useful” and began to draw his way into San Roque’s ‘Long Weekend’.
He takes us to the campfire in San Roque’s backyard and in just a few deft black and white images envelopes us in the thickness of this night, the deep well of loss that has brought Manka Maru to this point, by this fire.
He draws ‘Craig’ at his desk, wrestling with the task of writing an Australian perspective for The Cultural Complex, wrestling with the very concept of how a cultural complex operates – easier to detect looking at another culture, harder to detect in your own culture.
Craig’s door opens into the backyard. It’s Friday and Warlpiri family from the bush join Manka Maru. They’ve come in for the footy match; among them, a young man damaged by petrol sniffing, one of many in Craig’s professional care. The visitors interrupt Craig’s concentration but it’s a fruitful interruption: he will find his way into thinking about cultural complexes by describing what happens on this long weekend.
Some of what happens is eventful in a road trip kind of way – like going hunting with the Warlpiri visitors who arrive in increasing number. Some of it is eventful but bleak as Craig, the ‘shrink’, goes about his work, in the court, at the hospital, by the roadside where a man, who believes he is the King of Iraq, is sitting in his car with his three-day dead dog on the back seat. This episode kick starts the deeper journey, a haunting, at times thrilling excursion into our psychological inheritances.
Is the ‘King of Iraq’ a refugee from another time, Craig asks himself. And his mind wanders to the mythical Middle East and the story of Inanna’s grasping, ruthless attempt to bargain with death. (Santospirito’s drawing and mise en scene make the story wonderfully vivid.) The cure for some our ills would be an “assurance of immortality”. It’s part of what Craig knows the King needs. But short of that, what?
Craig remembers his meeting with an old Warlpiri man who told him to mind his own stories. That counsel fell on fertile ground, for Craig / San Roque is deeply in love with story, alive to the unfolding stories around him, to the ancient stories, the ones carried forward in our classical Western culture, the ones from the Aboriginal “dreaming system” (in so far as they have been shared with him). “The human psyche loves processing its own thoughts,” Craig thinks. If we lose the ability to do this, we “fall helplessly out of being.”
This has happened to Teresa to an extreme degree. Craig visits her in the psych ward. She’s trapped in a “cannabis-induced psychosis” but it’s more than the cannabis, more than the petrol that preceded it, and her scarifying life experiences. “Something in the cultural lobe of her brain allows her psychic demise.”
Cultural memory offers resilience in face of the tides of history. Craig picks up a male friend, Amos, to join him on the hunting trip with the Warlpiri women and children. Amos is of middle European and Jewish lineage – a strong bloodline in dispossession. Around the campfire, cooking lizards, Napaltjarri tells the children, black and white, about the travels of Malu (kangaroo) from up North. Amos and Craig sit to the side – Craig’s still wrestling with his writing task and enlists Amos’ help. They try tracing some travels of their own, the big shifts of people from their lands in Europe. Amos suggests that the Gypsies and the Jews were less vulnerable to the cultural breakdown this caused because they’d “learned to use cultural memory in a special nomadic manner”.
We are introduced to the ancient Arrernte stories of Alice Springs, particularly the wild dog story, inscribed in the local landscape. The dog came through Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), attacked the incumbent male, ravaged the mother and puppies. The Mount Gillen ridge and much of the land on the western side of the river were formed by the activities of the dog. Alice Springs is built on this mythic event, a dogfight and a rape. “Serious dark men might whisper the details.” This is part of the psychological inheritance of those to whom this cultural memory belongs – as well as those in the “overlap”, as Craig describes it, between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures: “Sites do things to people.”
When memory is encoded in sites and song-cycles, as it is in classical Aboriginal culture, and the links to these are broken, depression and malaise follows. This is affecting (to greater or lesser degrees) all who live in contemporary Alice Springs – not just in the shadow of broken Aboriginal songs, but in the shadow of non-Aboriginal people’s own cultural disconnections as well as the contradictions between the Christian and colonising projects that are the foundation of our nation. If I’ve understood it rightly, cultural complexes get people stuck in this brokenness and this contradictory space.
“We can save ourselves with imagination.” It’s the closest thing to a ‘solution’ that can be put between inverted commas. And the book enlists us at every page into acts of imagination through the alchemy of Santospirito’s and San Roque’s gifts. Some of Santospirito’s drawings are exceptional in their emotional power, and the multi-layering through space and time that the comic book form allows makes for rich story-telling. Combine this with San Roque’s poetics, the depth of his thought, and the heart of both men, and you have a book, a travel guide for our place and time. Read it and you’ll never think about the town’s ‘social problems’ in the same away again. Read it and you’ll never look at Alhekulyele (Mount Gillen, the nose of the ancestral dog) in the same way again.
At present, The Long Weekend in Alice Springs is also an exhibition at Watch This Space in George Crescent. It shows the comic book in the making, the drawings that appear in its pages and more, as Santospirito worked on his adaptation. Until June 7.
Adelaide – Diarise it!
SAT 30/11/2013, 3pm at the SA Writers Centre in the city.
To be launched by Jennifer Mills who is an awesome novelist who resides in the Clare Valley.
Joshua Santospirito will be at the launch to sign any copies you might like.
The book will be available at Imprints Booksellers afterwards for anyone who can’t make it to the launch and who wants a copy of the book before Christmas – or you can go to the Sankessto website and nab a copy from there.
Josh Santospirito talks to Kate McKenzie about making comics in Tasmania.
How did you become a comic artist?
I always wanted to become a comic-artist when I was a kid … so, of course, I became a nurse. Then, one day, I suddenly felt the calling of the brush. Which is a bit like when a person hears the call of God and becomes a man of the cloth, except the cloth is more like an ink-brush, and the priesthood is swapped for the siblinghood of comic-makers … and, in fact, there is no siblinghood, because making comics involves sitting in a room by yourself for years on end. Anyway, I rediscovered drawing as an adult as a way of investigating, hunting, diarising, reinterpreting interesting things. I started drawing The Long Weekend in Alice Springs and it just grew and grew so I had to finish it.
What skills should emerging comic artists try and develop?
I reckon its important to also master concepts from other mediums – particularly graphic design, advertising, poster-design, film, prose. In comics these skills really help with layouts of comics, which helps convey the information and meanings and emotions of the story, and it’ll make you a better person generally. A better person!
What music do you listen to when you’re working?
I actually canNOT have music with words, especially when lettering a comic. I always ALWAYS accidentally lose focus and write a word from the song, which is excruciatingly annoying. I really love listening to the Necks when writing or drawing – their trance-like music is very effective at focusing the mind on the squillions of little decisions that make up the process of writing comics. But if I’m just inking over the pencils, I don’t need to focus quite so much and I can listen to anything, I’m a big fan of all sorts of things ranging from Holly Throsby to experimental screechy noise. I also make improvisational guitar recordings of my own … sometimes that’s nice to listen to.
Where was your favourite place growing up?
My favourite place? Possibly ummmm … not sure … maybe the Rivoli down at Camberwell Junction. It’s an old art-deco cinema not far from where I grew up. I loved going to movies and that old cinema has an amazing ceiling – its just beautiful.
Do you refresh your work by traveling or do you find staying in one place gives you more stability?
I have travelled a lot in my life, but I think I’m changing, and requiring more and more to stay in one place to get things done. The last few times I’ve gone travelling with Nadine, I’ve made a zine of our travels – sketchbook and daily comics and whatnot – it’s been really fun. We recently went to Far North Queensland, so I made a little zine about that.
What is happening for Tasmanian comic artists at the moment?
- Gary Chaloner is launching some stuff at the EWF Roadshow – which is connected to Gestalt (Perth), which is really exciting. He’s got numerous projects on the go, as always.
- I’ve started to curate a series of zine-comics made by Tassie artists called DOWN THERE. I made the first one in July and Tricky Walsh has one coming out in December (very exciting), next year we’ll have Tom O’Hern, Lindsay Arnold and MORE – mega-great.
- Speaking about Tricky Walsh – a few of her recent major projects have involved comics, they’re pretty friggin’ fantastic! One was in the recent Hobart Art Prize exhibition on the walls: they’re kind of wall-based spreads which cross the boundaries of form – somewhere between strangely emotive diagrams and sequential art. They’re really great!
- There is a bimonthly Comic-Book-Group that meets up to talk about a graphic novel that they chose on the previous occasion. It’s got a facebook group that you can join if anyone’s interested. It’s good fun. It’s mostly about eating chips and talking about the book.
- I must say – Christopher Downes, editorial cartoonist for the Mercury Newspaper (he’s also an amazing comic-maker) is making more and more and more EXTRAORDINARY cartoons & comics for the Mercury – the man is ON FIRE! Look him up if you can. He occasionally makes small comics which are really beautifully crafted – so try and nab one if you ever come across ‘em. Of course, Jon Kudelka lives down here and also works for the Mercury – who’s a National treasure.
- My graphic novel The Long Weekend in Alice Springs is now in its second print-run which is rad.
- That grand institution of Aussie comics “The Comic Spot”, hosted by John Retallick and Gary Chaloner has moved from Melbourne to Tasmania and is still putting out great podcasts on a monthly basis which can be listened tohere.
What will you be getting up to at the EWF Hobart Roadshow?
I’ll be doing a comics-reading from The Long Weekend in Alice Springs at theGraphic Content event and hopefully going to see my old friend Jen Mills talk at the Digital Writers Conference immediately beforehand. I’m also involved in the Twitch Meets Stilts event on the Saturday at the Grand Poobah, which oughta be fun I reckon. Are you coming along?
Joshua Santospirito is a comic artist, writer and musician. He grew up in suburban Melbourne, has lived in Sydney, Alice Springs and Hobart. He has worked in mental health as a nurse for a number of years, working in Central Australian Aboriginal communities and in Hobart, Tasmania. In 2013 he started San Kessto Publications with his wife, Nadine Kessler.
Josh will be appearing at Graphic Content: An Evening of Visual Storytelling on Thursday October 31 from 6pm.
Since publishing The Long Weekend in Alice Springs in March of this year – the first printrun sold out … quite quickly … I admit that I was a little stunned by how quick it happened. I felt a little silly for having only printed 500 copies … but then I thought, well why do I feel silly – how could I have known??!! It’s now in its second printrun and the book is now in over 20 bookstores across Australia, which is great!!
You can also snaffle your copy from Sankessto Publications for $35-
There is also an upcoming booktour in Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide – check out the poster for details.
Recent Media reviews and spots
Charlie Ward’s blog review – a really beautiful and considered review.
Australian Newspaper Review Magazine – a massive spotlight!!
Readings Boostore – review – great endorsement from a great bookshop!
ComicOz review – a fellow psych-nurse and comic enthusiast.
Review from the Alice Springs News – Incredibly beautiful writing on the book.
Framed Magazine interview – Interview with Josh from late 2012
Alice Online article – Another Central Australian perspective
Podcast from the Comic Spot – interview with Josh Santospirito, good fun!