Saturday, June 6, 2015

My last komban in Tokyo...

and I'm recalling the Minamisanriku Polyglot/Aachi Cocchi 'Drawbridge' project:

Here we are, freshly arrived in Minamisanriku on Sunday 24 May 2015. Behind us is the town's temporary town centre: shops and restaurants in portable units.

(L to R: Bernard, Izumi-san, Tomoya-san, Dan-san, Stef-san, and Lang-san, who had driven us all the way from Tokyo. Photo by Mikako-san)

And here we are with our heads in the Octopus-kun, symbol of Minamisanriku. Or maybe mascot. This time you can also see Mikako-san on the left.

There's us performing the show, a 'mega kamishibai', at the Minamisanriku civic centre on Saturday 30 May, at a barbecue party supported by the Australian Embassy and other partners.

Here's Tomoya-san, Izumi-san and Mikako-san, the Asahi Cocchi team, playing music for the kids at the Asahi kindergarten to sing along to. This was the fourth kindergarten we visited last week. At each, we presented drawing activities, then some music and song, and finally a presentation of 'Momotaro: tsugi wa', the mega kamishibai.

One of the great things was seeing the sets of kamishibai cards at the kindergartens (you can see the Asahi kindergarten's kamishibai library over my shoulder). Here, Mikako-san reads/performs a strange little story about Moomins (yes, Moomins) playing soccer with an alien and learning road safety lessons (this story was sponsored by Toyota).

And here's us being rock stars.

A great tour, a great experience. I'd love to return to Minamisanriku.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tsugi wa? (What's next?)

What's next is that I am back in Japan.

That's the view from the 8th floor of a hotel room in Ueno, Tokyo, taken last Saturday night the 23rd of May, after an izakaya dinner with my Polyglot colleagues, Stef and Dan.

The next day we piled into a charcoal-coloured van with our fellow artists, Aachi Cocchi musicians Izumi-san and Tomoya-san, and the director of Aachi Cocchi, Mikako-san. Our tour manager, Lang Craighill, drove us north up the Tohoku Expressway to the town of Minamisanriku.

Polyglot have visited this town twice before,  the first time only months after it was ravaged by the March 2011 tsunami. This time we are working with residents of temporary housing, and then school children at the Iriya Elementary School, to produce a mega kamishibai which we will perform at Minamisanriku kindergartens next week. Aachi Cocchi (it means 'here and there') have been presenting classical music, opera and dance 'cafe concerts' in places affected by the tsunami since 2011 as well. As part of this two week program, called 'Drawbridge: Kids Are The Boss', Tomoya and Izumi have been playing Tchaichovsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Piazzola and Disney for the residents and the students, and then providing live accompaniment for the kamishibai section.

Here's Stef, Dan and I presenting a kamishibai introducing us, which I produced back in Melbourne. It was designed to introduce us and also to be able to performed to the chorus of 'Give Me a Home Among the Gum Trees'. There's Mikako-san translating for us, Izumi-san playing the piano, and Tomoya-san looking on.

Here's Dan and I showing the Iriya students the story that the temporary housing residents had given to us in the previous two days: the residents told us the story, and I drew the pictures as they narrated it. Although an elderly lady did need to get up and correct my picture of the peach floating down the river towards the lady washing her clothes.  The peach, apparently, didn't have enough of a bum-like curve to it...

And here's the image I produced back in April so Mikako-san would have a picture to put onto the flyer advertising the cafe concerts for the temporary housing residents. The middle flag is the Minamisanriku flag.

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