What Was You Are Here 2013?

It was a festival that happened in Canberra, and a bit on the internet, and a bit in people’s heads, and a bit elsewhere maybe, but mostly in Canberra from the 10th to the 24th of March, 2013. It was so much and so many things. It was several of these things for me and maybe for you too. It was planning and preparation and going over the neon program. It was something you had to experience. It was heading on in to Smiths Alternative Bookshop bursting with so many lovely people that it seemed I couldn’t talk with even one, but I ate a lot of party food, bought a copy of Burley, heard wonderful words and hugged some of those people. It was gRage that night and every weeknight with the ‘in-compere-able’ James Fahy and projections from laptop to screen: Marilyn Manson, Nina Simone, the White Stripes, tUnE-yArDs, Xiu Xiu and more and readings, and popping in late one night to be blown away by Adam Cooke’s band. It was movies like Conan the Barbarian with both director and live commentary. It was one stage, many bands, one song each, a mixtape love letter to and from Canberra. It was when the baby tottered up to the stage in the MC gaps in the middle of all that and “uh, awkward, we left you in the KFC carpark, son” and then it was everyone crowding in close to dance hard to Fun Machine and don’t trust their naked bodies. It was Art, Not Apart full of crepes, performance, music, sun, people, art. It was WORDLAB and a to-do-list love letter limerick, a calming mantra, haikus aplenty, missives mostly written  and oceanic, collaborative, dinosaur, punderful, political cake design. It was wonderful volunteers. It was wandering buzzing distracted. It was Mall Stories, uploaded to my mp3 player, waiting for a post-March empty weekend. It was how I chaired a small panel and it ran smooth, free and well across a multitude of topics, detouring into a plague pit perhaps, but towards a quiet confidence in Canberra, among many other things. It was Hadley making me laugh nervously just by his uttering of ‘Christmas’ and the popcorn bags, beep test, music and more. It was Monique seamlessly crashing the performance at the lovely The Near and How, even though she didn’t have a giant head, and also Monique being poisoned by the honey of a dead beauty queen and also Monique and Josh on a couch and also lovely people like Monique and Josh on a couch sending a message for me because I forgot my phone and my jacket. It was Joe Woodward in Trinculo’s Bathtub and Emma Gibson and The Cell and THE ICE AGE. It was meeting old friends, some from interstate, some from across town, some from down the road who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was saying hello. It was conversations striking up. It was new faces and faces I’d only known from the internet and how they inhabit new dimensions now. It was meeting new friends. It was Prayers in the Streetlight and Der Wolf and how, despite everything, even a whole new second backup space, I hid and flicked on headlights and it went wonderfully several times over and the cleaners came by amidst all the cars and it was an extra audience member standing there. It was watching the responses to the balletic, clownish, confrontational, wonderful work she’d made. It was panic and success, both shivering. It was Hashemoto crammed into a van, Poncho juggling, automobile gallery, mannequin accident, full-spectrum carpark wonderment. It was Yvonne, Gemma and Pete making rad music together and they didn’t even have a name yet but I would buy their CD yesterday. It was Walter Burley Griffin having a lot to answer for and I want to know more. It was DEBATE. It was real. It was good. It was staying for a bit more. It was gliding across quiet Tuesday night streets to the beautiful off-centre centrality of the National Film and Sound Archives, with Pablo on a cherry picker, performance magic, heckling sailors, black and white mashup, Shine Tarts, double saxophone and overall radness. It was [_____________{insert yr experiences here}_______________]. It was a Eulogy for a City, and so many hidden and personal histories and new ways to notice. It was a highlight. It was all the highlights. It was calling from a dirty payphone about aforementioned because I couldn’t leave, not yet. It was dashing back for a second run in the original space and flicking on and off again and maybe the backup to the backup plan was actually the best? It was walking past BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! and hearing the yawps from within, but opting instead for a celebratory dinner of  burger and waffle with Yee, with Fun. vs Fallout Boy on the TV, as the festival continued around us. It was compulsively re-checking Facebook, Twitter, photos, #hashtags, Vimeo, YouTube and email, from work, home and elsewhere. It was Heartbroken Assassin. It was wishing I got my nails done. It was wishing I made it to that other one. It was mistakes made and lessons learned and the things forgotten and the failures and all else imperfect. It was more dining out and takeaway than has ever been usual and the Moon Girl and the waving puppets in the forest and then iPho and then a dance piece I didn’t understand but I found impressive skill and beauty in it by the end. It was being a Literally Too Many DJs passerby. It was Pearl’s Ode and We Are Perpendicular and running out of superlatives and adjectives for my enthusiasm. It was finally seeing Rosie play the cello. It was walking into a darkened old menswear store to join in on a listening party and sinking right into the couch, closing your eyes and disappearing into the music and stories. It was Scissors Paper Pen and editing Papercuts reviews at work and at home and being impressed at how little I had to do — a comma here, a hyphen there mostly — to buff up an already brilliant review or seven and then they filled the front page. It was not wanting to be at work, and my work reflecting that for a fortnight. It was Something Else and that was, as always, something else and so very much more than exhausted puns. It was my last event before Smiths Alternative dropped the Bookshop. It was “Are you there God? ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU” and a Ramones cover and so so good. It was dancing perhaps more than I’ve ever danced before and a kind of perfect circular symmetry with the last time I danced to ‘Hey Ya!’, and an understanding of why Lady Gaga et al are so popular because when the right song plays loud in a dark room with all the bodies and minds unique and unified and even amidst unheard conversations and even with the cops outside you just wanna DANCE. It was only a glimpse of a wonderful zine fair and the ZINES and many more to come? It was Paul Magee vs. Tim Kent vs. Andrew Galan vs. Barcham the ‘Sound’ Guy and what a wonderful celebration of the possibilities of poetry in multiple people’s minds and mouths and bodies it was. It was laying the festival to rest with dedicated remnants and styrofoam cup candles and me dubbed an inflatable-liferaft-fulla-leftovers pallbearer, a processional down the streets, through the bus interchange and through Garema Place ‘as I went down to the river to pray’ and into the old Watch House that I didn’t even really realise was there before this festival and we laid the raft and the bits and the pieces and the memories and the festival down and with the guitar smashed the festival felt over, but we stayed a while longer for a Landlords hip-hop tribute to what was and to Canberra and then the guy in the bunny suit came on and people didn’t know what to do and people began to leave so eventually I did too and I walked home and it was needing a good lie down and a bit of telly maybe, then talking as we go to sleep.  It was true festival hangover, a sugar-rush art-high come-down. It was something you want to keep hold of, think of, write of, talk of, and about, for weeks and months and probably years later. It was the end of many things and the seed of many others. It was all of these things, and more, and moreso for so many others. It was You Are Here 2013. It was awesome. It was.

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TiNA 2011 Nostalgia

How long after a festival ends is it reasonable to write about it? Does the passing of time provide perspective, fuzzy memories, a vague sense of nostalgic longing or some kind of triple combo deal thereof? After weeks of backburnering, will I finish writing the things I start? And will I start the things I finish? Do I even know what I’m talking about anymore? All a series of unnecessary introductory questions that I nonetheless intend to at least attempt to answer by the end of this thing.

This is Not Art, affectionately nicknamed TiNA, was held in Newcastle on the 29th of September to the 3rd of October this year, as it is done annually. That’s five reliable days of awesomeness every year. This year I went for just over two of those days.

Here’s some advice to future attendees of TiNA: go for the full five days. Last year I did. Two days is not the same. It’s still amazing and wonderful and fun and exceedingly worthwhile in a way that makes you gush and write blog posts about it weeks (months!) after the fact. But when you consider that at any one time there’s probably half a dozen excellent and worthy things going on at TiNA, you want to get the full five-day fill.

In fact, I think next year I’ll just expand those five days out to a whole week. I’ll take the train there and back, have a leisurely jaunt of reading, scribbling, music-listening, gazing out the window and taking naps along the way. Driving there really takes it out of you, so once you arrive you’re already exhausted. Not good. I think I’ll fork out for better accommodation next year too. And a sturdy raincoat. And gumboots. Ah yes. Regrets. I have a few. But I’m not complaining really. I really am glad that I got to go for a second time, as a more casual visitor than last year, when I was a fresh-eyed Voiceworks EdComm Triple Workshopper Dude. Ah. Memories.

Anyway, it’s been a while now. The post-TiNA flu and blues have passed. The inspiration still lingers. But there’s some unfinished business, and I’m trying to wrap some stuff up before year’s end. I wanted to do both my own TiNA wrap-up and a bit of round-up of responses to TiNA. More on the latter later.

But first, here it is: my TiNA 2011:

 

Friday

4pm: My girlfriend and I had braved the surprisingly jammed traffic, semi-circled that final roundabout, and from that point, it seemed we were finally entering Newcastle.  We’d driven to Sydney the previous day and stayed with her folks. We’d been slack getting moving that morning. But now we were heading in the general direction of the CBD, past mineral industry, machinery, coastal rivers, bridges and, gradually, it all became distinctly Novocastrian. Last year I’d just caught the bus from the airport, so I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going, but eventually I found both my bearings and my way to our tiny, bed-sized hotel room above a pub. We unpack and prepare ourselves for our TiNA experience.

5pm: We wander past abandoned shopfronts, adult and bridal wear stores and assorted creative hubs, including the Octopod, outside of which I grab a program and begin circling events and initiating an obscure coded language for how much I want to see stuff and what order I will see it in.

7.15pm: Having roughly worked out which buildings had been claimed in the name of TiNA this year, I had some reference points. We head for the Crackhouse and run into our buddies Greg and Lesley from Canberra publisher Blemish Books. Huzzah! We head into Catalyst 5, which is meant to be some kind of twisted, immersive, interactive version of a Miss Marple mystery. I remember bad accents, someone slicing into raw meat, awkwardness, confusion and an abrupt ending. The bar had plenty of room to rise from there.

8pm: We go and eat delicious Turkish pizza on Darby Street.

8.30pm: The Going Down Swinging Launch at Customs house. Geoff Lemon orates loquaciously. I see the Voiceworks krew. Zoe Norton Lodge and Laura Jean McKay read stories. Lawrence Leung proves, via hilarious multimedia powerpoint presentation, that Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is a dick. A dude whose name I don’t remember raps and such. All in all, it’s a good bundle of spoken words, and the bar and the roof are rightly raised.

10pm: We wander out into the Newcastle night. My girlfriend and I endeavour to socialise further but we are like old people, sleepy after the drive. We retire to our bed. At that point, we feel that’s all we and the hotel room need. Us. Room. Bed. Sleeeeep.

 

Saturday

12pm: After a late rise, a tasty breakfast and a realisation that we were too late to really get into the Writing Revenge panel, we amble into Space, Land, Language at the Lockup. I didn’t catch any Critical Animals last year, so this was good to see. Basically, it was a panel where three people presented their papers. Emily Stewart (old housemate, editor, poet) spoke about ecopoetics. I couldn’t begin to do it justice, but it’s a super interesting subject, so for an inkling of the ideas contained in it, start here, then read Whispers and Courses and How to Do Words With Things and Wild Politics and go from there? The next woman’s paper was about Bret Easton Ellis and representations of urban space in contemporary US literature. It made me want to go back to Uni to study Literature again, or maybe just read more books. The third paper was a dude talking about atolls and language and their relationship within a certain culture. I learned that atolls are awesome and that different cultures have different elements in their language to express directions. Rather than left-right or east-west, some use words meaning upriver-downriver, or inside-atoll, outside-atoll. Anthropomorphic and external points of reference. Words and language systems for counting. For colour. And what part of the tree is the front? WHOA. My brain begins to expand, my stomach rumbles.

2.30pm: At a bit of a loss after lunch, we wander into Transmedia – The Business Behind the Buzzword. And I dunno. It does seem difficult to make transmedia more than a corporate buzzword, or at least it has that vibe to me. I struggle to think of examples that don’t seem like marketing strategies, side-notes or tacked-on elements to a main work. I’d love to be shown good examples to the contrary. The idea of ARGs is interesting though. Anyway, a few more tasty foodthought pickings here nonetheless.

3.30pm: We head back to our room for a nap. We are essentially octogenarian.

4.30pm: I head out solo for How To: Start a Writing Business. That is, after I wander around, look for the other lost people outside an abandoned shopfront’s door, get given directions, head around a corner into an alley, past some bins, climb some thin metal stairs up the side of a building and emerge into the gorgeous and warm room of polished wooden floorboards and word-filled, papered walls, into the wondrous space that is Staple Manor. I wish I’d come here sooner, more often. So, I didn’t catch it all. But Cameron Pegg, who ran the workshop, affirmed: work for what you believe in and decide when/where you work for free and when/where you stop working for free. He pointed to some good articles, like Walkley Magazine 67, say, page 25? And this: Mediabistro: Adventures in Journalism: World Traveller. It was great to see such a diversity of keen freelancers. Workshops like this are always a big inspirational kick up the arse.

5.30pm: I amble out, run into some people I know, head along to the Festival Club pub, answer my phone, amble around some more, see a street festival, meet people for 10 seconds before one of us disappears, get caught in the rain, run into some other people and before I know it, though I should be embracing the TiNA experience and attending the Big Top Ball because it’s the place to be, I instead head back to our room. We eat dinner, I read some of my book, scribble in my notebook, we watch TV and together we crash into sleep. I guess sometimes, even amidst a festival, that’s just what I feel like doing.

 

Sunday

11am: Wait, it’s already our last day? Eff the rain, let’s go!

11.45am: We quickly, eagerly, preliminarily check out the Zine Fair in the multi-storey car park. Dry, windy, promising.

12pm: WRIRON CHEF! This was great fun. A cooking competition with ad-hoc cooking facilities and the key ingredient…ginger beer! Of course. Two cooking-loving editors versus two not-so confident writers, two hungover yet witty hosts and a sodden but warm crowd at the Royal Exchange. Beyond the laughter and good times, the dishes created were impressive: ginger beer and pear pancakes, ginger beer stirfry and ginger-beer infused corn. I tasted the latter. Iffy. In the end, the writers’ slow-cooked pancakes surprised and delighted the senses; their cuisine reined supreme!  That’s a poetry!

1pm: We headed back to the zine fair in the rain. Did a slow lap, chatted with various folks, got a few zines and a copy of the first issue of Seizure’s shiny magazine: Food. And I purchased us a quesadilla, then got another one for free because they messed up our order. Victorious!

2pm: Was really keen to see the screening of Tom Doig’s film Moron2Moron, wherein he and his buddy cycle from one small town in Mongolia called Moron to a another smaller town in Mongolia, also called Moron. Unfortunately, we were delayed by all the fun of the zine fair, so by the time we arrived at the Royal Exchange, the place was packed and on-screen Tom had already arrived at the latter Moron. I recommend checking out their travel diary though. And hopefully I can see the film some other time. Looks like a good shonky fun time.

2.30pm: Went to check out some of the screening of Pixel Pirate 2: The Directors Cut at the Festival Club. It’s a film made entirely of sampled material from other movies, with a not-so-underlying critique of intellectual property law. Bizarre and impressive.

3pm: At a bit of a loss for what to go to next, we went for the one with the best name: My Robot Has More Artistic Integrity Than I Do. Some lads from Canberra have helped in the founding of a hackerspace, which is kind of like an artist’s space/workshop, but more computer/technology/maker-focused. They discussed a lot of interesting distinctions: art and craft, function and aesthetic, and whether something is art if it’s just the interesting result of an electronics nut farting around with bits and pieces of computer hardware. They also discussed how they’re interested in the possibilities of collaborations, especially between artists with ideas and those with the technological/mechanical skills to realise their ideas. Again, last year I didn’t really see any Electrofringe panels, so this was something different, some interesting stuff. Check it out.

4pm: Before we knew it, it was our last event before we had to drive back to Canberra via Sydney. And it was none other than the Worlde Famouse SPELLING BEE. See below for Geoff Lemon’s better coverage (and spelling). I’ll just say it was crowded with difficult words and good people and that special TiNA vibe that I carried with me all the way home. As I mentioned, I wish I’d got a chance to attend more stuff, but at least I saw a different side of TiNA this year, a different pace, some different crowds, some ‘novelty’ events and more stuff outside my usual writing/editing/publishing interests.  Hopefully next year I’ll get an even better and fuller spectrum, from Thursday to Monday, from silly to serious, from words to robots, from writing to hacking into raw meat while speaking in a bad accent? And hopefully I’ll get a better chance to meet and catch up with more good TiNA folk next year too. Still, it was wonderful and worthwhile. And with such thoughts vibrating within my head and expressed throughout conversations with my girlfriend, we thus began to drive away from Newcastle, and thus…

5pm: My TiNA 2011 ends.

***

So. That was my TiNA 2011. How about everyone else?

Perhaps because I missed a good chunk of TiNA, since it ended I’ve been (somewhat nostalgically, somewhat in anticipation of 2012) working my way through other people’s reminiscences, remembrances, live-blogs, reports, responses, summaries and such: vicarious experience of the rest of the fest. Altogether, I thought, it could form some kind some kind of collaborative post-TiNA round-up. Heck, if somebody else has already done some exhaustive round-up of TiNA 2011 stuff already, just send it this way. But otherwise, I’d like to absorb (and gather for others) all sorts of TiNA-related interweb goodness, be it blog post, podcast, video or something else.

So here’s what I’ve got so far. I’ll keep this list updated. Please send me any links you’ve got!

  • Phill English at Toothsoup wrote a great festival report and his blog is also pretty great and you should read it.

 

Until TiNA 2012, BAM! for now.

EWF update: Disco discourse, Quarter-hour launches, Bootcamps, Bon Scott and more!

The Emerging Writer’s Festival has been zooming along like a runaway locomotive, with plenty of events whooshing past and a weekend cornucopia rapidly approaching. Let’s see if I can make sense of the blur that has been my past five or six days.

Sunday’s Page Parlour was a jolly good time for all.  I browsed the tables thrice and then again, sat in on an interview with the wonderful Mandy Ord, got prodded with Ronnie’s attention-grabbing prodding stick and finally settled my spending at three rad-looking indie publications: Red Leaves, Caught in the Breeze and Flinch, which may all result in reviews one day. I was too tuckered out for the 48 Hour Play Generator that night, but if the reports are anything to go by, I really did miss out.

Meanwhile, there’s been a storm of TwitterFESTing, #ewfchat hashtagging, digital launches, online conversations and more, all as part of the online side of the festival. Check out all the EWFonline happenings here, or plough through the ever-growing hashtag archive on Twitter.

Back in the land of face-to-face, for four nights, four publications got their 15 Minutes of Fame.  Thuy Lin wrote a great summation of the first round on Monday. Jodie at Voiceworks/Virgule did too, but remember: it’s not a competition.

That being said, let me claim a FIRST on Tuesday night. But in an effort to rein in my logorrhoea, I’ve restricted myself to 15 words for each 15 minutes of fame-r.

1. My Pilgrim’s Heart by Stephanie Dale: ‘Journey through marriage and other foreign lands’.  Mullumbimby.  All humanity vibrating in Istanbul. Unlearning expectations.

2.  The Nine Flaws of Affection by Peter Farrar: Laconic. Carveresque. Drought. ANZAC. Comas. Wounds. Violence. Aftermath. First-person. Affection’s flipside. Kill those darlings.

3. Ondine by Ebony McKenna: Fantasy. Girl meets scruffy, black, Scottish ferret/boy at Psychic Summer Camp. Magic and love.

4. Offset journal: an unfamiliar journal, with DVD! Victoria University’s poems, songs, artworks, stories. Multimedia first publishings wonders.

Good stuff! Unfortunately, I didn’t get along to Wednesday or Thursday’s series of quarter-hour launches. Lose. Who else went along? Still, the two I did attend exceeded expectations. Even the publications I suspected might be a bit naff ended up surprising me and they all became books I’d happily snaffle.

Ooh, also on Tuesday night, I got along to You Can’t Stop the Musing, Craig Schuftan’s Disco Lecture. Working as a funny critique and defense of disco, his basic argument (full of wit and disco backing tunes) was, sure, disco is repetitive, stupid and artificial. But we like to dance to repetitive music and disco has mass popular appeal, so people can sneak into it what they want to say to a large group of people. Disco connects us to our bodies and our internal rhythms. Its stupidity challenges the mind/body dualism that forms the core of Western thought. And it may be artificial, but this can be a positive for oppressed sectors of society, such as gay people, who’ve been told their whole lives that their desires are ‘unnatural’; it’s basically challenging biologicial determinism. His lecture really did give me a greater appreciation of Saturday Night Fever, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and disco in general, old and new. Craig says his goal is to increase happiness in the world in this way, so that when we hear these songs on the radio, we derive greater enjoyment from them. Works for me!

On Wednesday night, I went along to the city library to try my hand at the Creative Writing Bootcamp in person, rather than the digital edition/s. Voicework’s Maddie Crofts ably guided a huge crowd of people in a variety of great exercises that I reckon I’ll re-use in the future.

After that, I went off to the Willow Bar for The Last Hurrah, which is somewhat-EWF-related, in that it was night of readings culminating in the launch of A.S Patric’s Music for Broken Instruments, which also received a digital launch at EWFonline. I was delighted to be kidnapped by the poems and stories of the Black Riders.

Thursday saw me attending my first Lunchbox/Soapbox at the Wheeler Centre, where Torpedo‘s Chris Flynn argued that, while past decades have had Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Inspector Rex, K9 and the like, this decade needs its own heroic hound if we’re to have any hope . Pretty much one the most unique speeches I’ve seen. Great stuff.

Then that night, another Creative Writing Bootcamp, this time with Komninos. This one took a while to get started, but it too built up to some great approaches to generating stories and ideas.

Then it was time for Wordstock. This year’s theme was AC/DC. Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan, but I’d be lying if I said that night didn’t make them a little more respect-worthy. Clem Bastow dressing up as Bon Scott, visible package and all; Emilie Zoey Baker’s nostalgic bogan tribute; two ukelele tunes (one about circumcision, the other about reality TV);  Sean M. Whelan poetically applying the Schrödinger’s cat concept to Bon Scott’s life/death; Vachel Spirason again wowing us, with a construction worker’s flamenco/breakdance/aerobic  routine ; neo-feminist responses to Acca-Dacca traditions; awkward karaoke renditions; and Ben Pobje’s concluding ode to riding free and punching babies in the face.

After all of that, Friday’s lack of EWF programming was a chance to get my bearings, gather my resources, take a few breaths, make a few plans and ready myself for the weekend rush.

And now the Town Hall weekend approaches. How hectic is this program? I’m going to have a hard time choosing which panel I want to go to almost every hour. And I’ll have to pop out at some point to check out the zine bus and all the DIY wonders it holds.

Finally, before I forget, Bookseller and Publisher’s blog Fancy Goods has a wrap-up of the festival thus far. Meanwhile, their past editor, Miss LiteraryMinded/Angela Meyer has also done a wrap-up of her own.

Righo then, see you at the festival, or maybe on the other side!

Plugs

What good is a blog if you can’t use it plug stuff? And it’s even relevant!

I’m currently doing an internship with The Lifted Brow, the one and only biannual attack journal of arts, letters and sciences. They have a great (and big – 200+ pages!) mix of material: short stories, creative non-fiction, poetry, art and more! The last issue came with a double CD of great music from artists like The Lucksmiths to Neil Gaiman (yup), and the current issue includes a cd-length epic journey of science-fiction, rhyming couplets and radness. That’s not to mention the new maths column, which comes with a free piece of string!

I heartily recommend that you check it out, buy a copy, subscribe and tell them what you think!

Second, have a look at Blemish Books. This is my friend from Canberra’s new publishing venture and it looks like he’ll be doing some great stuff. If you’re inclined to write poetry or creative essays and see them published in real books (none of this digital publishing which is surely just a passing fad, like fridges), then send them your best stuff! Hey, there’s a reviews section on the website too, so I guess you can stay digital.

I wonder sometimes if independent publishers like the above will eventually migrate into ebooks, or if they will continue to produce works of quality and beauty in print. Zines have persisted as a viable format, even with the rise of blogs. Likewise, maybe ebooks and books will coexist, with each playing a role that is unique to the medium. I’m excited about the possibilities of ebooks, but surely there are some things that make print worthwhile: the tactile, the collectable and maybe more. And you can’t download a piece of string for an ebook!