I am back in Alice Springs for three weeks, away from beloved Nadine. Working in the AP Lands in the North-West of South Oz. A truckload of driving to be done in the next three weeks ... community to community doing work that is fairly subtle and is often not understood ... sometimes not even by me. It's funny talking to the general nurses in the clinics about what we do, they often look as though we mental health nurses are a bunch of idiots who don't actually do anything, which is sometimes very amusing. At least they're good natured about it all.
I have been invited by Craig San Roque whilst I am here to apply for a group exhibition around living in Alice Springs and responding to the local environment. Some of you might know that I have spent the last 2 or so years slowly adapting one of Craig's essays into a graphic novel - A Long Weekend in Alice Springs. It's nowhere near finished but it appears to be turning into something more concrete as I slowly iron out the kinks and twists so that it's less like a bunch of loosely connected visual concepts with writing on the top and more like a tight (and loose) narrative that interweaves the psychological and mythical concepts in the essay. He wrote in 2003 and it was published in a book on the Jungian concept of the "Cultural Complex". Probably not the normal fare of graphic novel ... but I'm convinced of the ability of the medium to put across complex (no pun intended) and beautiful concepts to the reader as has been proven time and time again.
I chose to do this because at the time I first read the article I was grappling with the problems of Aboriginal Australia and being a white person who feels strongly but in the midst of so much greyness can't actually see clearly what should or could be done about things. The article (amongst other things) helped me to stand back and take on a bigger picture, it assisted my seeing more clearly something that is, at times, unseeable. After reading it and leaving Central Oz I felt that I would like to renew my childhood interest in comic drawing and I wanted to try to write some sort of graphic based book that would talk about working in cross-cultural areas ... and indeed how people coming from other cultures to "save" the other culture actually do more harm than good ... and why. This has been written in countless books but people still swamp these areas of the world and continue to inflict psychic, and tangible damage upon the locals with their well-meaning kindness. In the end I gave up trying to formulate some sort of graphic piece on this idea and started drawing Craig's article for fun. I realised just how powerful it could be in this format (the original article was also ridiculously powerful in its surreality and strangeness) when I looked at what I had done and showed it to Craig.
Craig, as always was highly supportive and encouraged further forays.
Not having written long comics before, not having scripting skills, I decided to just try and draw the whole thing in some way shape or form and then once I had the whole thing laid out I could go through it as a whole and rewrite it so that it worked in comic-form. I've done that, it was a very long process (when you work full-time, writing/drawing long comics takes a loooong time). Now I'm up the stage where I'm sort of rewriting it and restoryboarding it so that it becomes more fluid and things flow. The problem with adapting an essay is that it doesn't always have a narrative. Visually representing abstract concepts may not be a problem in themselves but it seems to me that one of the tricks is to maintain the visual concepts in keeping with some sort of narrative or central point so that the reader of the comic can understand how to read it in the larger picture of the 'story'. Don't know if that makes sense ... I'm only just working out how best to think about these things myself. It's very interesting and in some ways ironing out the bumps in the fabric of the adaptation is somehow more stimulating to me right now than the actual artwork.
Anyhoo - as I mentioned Craig has invited me to be part of an exhibition with him. He will put the manuscript for the Long Weekend up on a wall and I shall put up some of the rough work that I have done so far (as a work in progress) at the new gallery that is run by Dan Murphy (a wonderful and energetic artist from Alice Springs). I'll let ya'll know more about it as it unfolds.
Thanks must be made to Chris Downes who is a charming Yank who lives in Hobart, Tasmania (where Nadine and I now live), who lent me some comics recently by Scott McCloud on the topic of how comics are actually constructed. They were far more informative than I even thought they would be when Chris explained them to me.
I may put up drawing here as time goes by. My music career is on hold for the time being, though I may try to have a gig here in Alice before I leave.
Speak soon maties!!