17 November 2014

Comics Residency in Riga III - Berliac

The whole month of March 2014 we had the pleasure to host Berliac in Riga as comics artist in residence in the framework of the CUNE residencies. Hopefully soon we can give you more info about the upcoming residencies, but meanwhile you can read in Berliac's words, how he experienced his time in Riga, in which he was very active having an exhibition and lecture at the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and holding a comics workshop at the Art Academy of Latvia in which he inspired the Latvian comics generation of tomorrow. But read yourself: 

     "When I arrived to Riga, David Schilter came to pick me up to the airport and we took a bus into town. He pointed at the hipster markets where I shouldn't buy food if I intended to stay above the line of poverty. I had an apartment all by myself, and the first thing I did was to move the furniture around. I grouped most of it on the wooden floor part, cos the other side of the flat was a carpet, and I have something against carpets. 

The next day, together with David we visited the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, where I'd make an exhibition only four days later. The works to be shown were the original pages of my mini kuš! 'Inverso', but when I took them out of the folder, David, curator Ieva Saulīte, and me, we all realized my pages completely sucked. Also they were too little in number and size. We measured the place once more, in order to think what could be done to make the exhibition a place worth visit and help David and Ieva keep their jobs. Despite I hate making murals and we had only four days, I still decided I would make a 2 meter painting, plus four new A3-sized drawings. During the day I worked on the painting at the gallery space, and at night I worked on the smaller ones at home, until very late. 

I usually work on A5

A day or two before the opening, David thought it was a good idea to visit Riga's hip bars like "Chomsky" and "KKC" and do some PR, you know, to promote the event. Well, what David didn't know was that getting me to talk to people is the worst idea you could ever have. As it usually goes when I drink (bah, also when I don't), I began to complain about art, people, in short, about the world as a whole. One of my negative ramblings was about how much I dislike when art exhibitions are attended only by "art" people. David then proceeded to promote the event in the kind of magazine "real people" read, just to make me feel better (that's what friends are for, right?).

I can brag about being the only cartoonist that was ever talked about in the yellow press.

This tactic worked very well. Among the people that showed up we had really weird ones (and I don't mean the typical "comics fan" kind of weirdo) who didn't even look at the works at display, they just ate the whole pile of home-made argentinian "alfajores" that David made in my honor, drank as much as they could, and left. There was plenty of normal people too, who showed interest in my work, talked, and things like that. Quite amazing actually.

Kuš!'s publisher Sanita Muizniece, curator Ieva Saulīte, and me, acting like we should during exhibition openings.

For the next few days I ate potatoes and moved my flat's furniture at least three more times.

The next thing was my workshop at the Art Academy. I was shown around by professor Maija Kurševa, and the building is super old and smells nice, like wood, especially in the printmaking department where näive art students were listening to a 150-year-old teacher explaining how to do things the old (the good, the only) way. As for my workshop, the students were mostly 20-year-old design students in their first year of school, which can be sometimes a tough gang, but luckily the great majority managed not to fall asleep at my boring ramblings about alternative ways to structure the stories of our lives and this way heal the world, save Willy, etc. I divided the students in two groups, according to analytic-philosopher Galen Strawsom's concepts of episodic and narrative personalities (don't google it, it's really boring). For the "narratives", I taught plot-driven structures of storytelling for consequentially developed stories (the classic "beginning-middle-end"), and gave some hints on how to break that linearity (flashbacks, changes of point of view, etc). For the "episodic" ones I explained ways of structuring our stories in ways that dont necessarily deal with time and events, but express abstract ideas and/or emotions instead. Miraculously, not only at that point the majority of the students were still in the room, but they were actually coming up with really interesting results.

On the lower photo: During the workshop Zane Zlemeša was apparently already working on visual elements and narrative ideas that would later develop into her debut comic book, "Collector". Things like this make me think that maybe the world deserves a second chance.

After the first two weeks, my main activities had a "Case Filed" label on them, hence I had more time to do my own things. Like watching the whole anime series "Bakuman". 75 episodes in ten days. It's highly addictive, don't start watching it if you have things to do. Anyway, influenced by the anime, I also began making the "neemus" (how could I still call them "storyboards" after watching "Bakuman"?) for a new project: a 10-volume, 1000 pages long saga. (Note: I made 12 rough pages and put the project on hold as soon as I left Latvia).

There were days when David actually convinced me that watching seven episodes of "Bakuman" a day and feeding myself only on chips and "Sportista dried fruits mix" wasn't healthy at all, and managed to get me out of the house, that is, outside of the area comprised between my flat, the gallery, and the supermarket. I even managed to cross an avenue on my own. After what happened during our first night-outs before the opening, and being afraid of losing all of his friends, David suggested to quit the bar circuit and expand our territory into the granny-café area. 

In only a few days we already ruled the area around the bus station (the top floor cafeteria with fake-fruit decoration and pink walls - which reminded me of my friend Aisha Franz- and the small control tower by the canal), and some other city-center joints. One time we even had dinner twice, just to prove we can if we want to, and we saw a whole chinese family vanish from their own restaurant's dining room into the back of the place, so we could have the place only to ourselves. We were the Don Corleones of family diners. Only something was missing, I couldn't feel like a true gangster without a proper tattoo, so Sabine Moore made a knife on my arm (link).

On one of the last evenings David and Sanita organized a drink-and-draw gathering, together with other local artists, who gave me presents. Remember I was like Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" by now, so I ordered a Vodka Sour. Believe me, it was the first time in my life I drew more than I drank. For the rest of he night we used the drink to make pranks to the unwarned friends that arrived later, or to challenge each other to see who's stomach was tougher. I made this comic:


Note the manga influence. "Bakuman" changed my career completely.

Last but not least we went out for drinks with Dace Sietina and Laura Ķeniņa, where a man who reminded me of an Aki Kaurismaki's character invited us for a round of drinks and took off without paying. I enjoyed Riga."

No comments:

Post a Comment