SWAPPING SWEATY convention centers for workshops with local and international artists, and tables and booths for interactive art projects and house shows, new experimental comics festival the Projects focuses on collaboration, conversation, and throwing a party that resembles native Portland life. Also, it's totally free, barring two events that we'll get to in a sec.
"The inspiration started with my friend Dunja Jankovic," says Jason Leivian, owner of Floating World Comics. "[Jankovic] organizes a comics festival in Croatia called Skver. That's where the discussion started... to do something like that here in America."
"Basically, the European comics festivals that she's been to are very different in focus: There's no tables where artists just sit there and sell stuff like a lot of the American shows," explains Leivian. "So that makes a huge difference, just to remove that aspect of commerce and also to remove the feeling that to be successful you have to sell a bunch of stuff."
Festivalgoers have a lot to choose from: painting by numbers with Igor Hofbauer, collaborative drawing with Alex Chiu and Sumi Ink Club, a choose-your-own-adventure comic installation, and even a "sad penguins" draw-in with Duskin Drum. Local comics club Gridlords is hosting "readings, interviews, and multimedia presentations" at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) on Saturday and Sunday, and there's even an encore presentation of DMTV, Floating World's yearly animation festival (fuck yeah!).
The festival's soft opening takes place Thursday night at galleryHOMELAND, with an exhibition featuring work by Croatian illustrator and poster artist Igor Hofbauer and French publishing and media collective Le Dernier Cri, who Leivian describes as the Projects' "guests of honor."
While the honorable Le Dernier Cri make books, prints, comics, exhibitions, videos, and albums, they're probably best known for the fantastic, grotesque imagery that spans their canon—a frenetic tits-and-monsters quality of content described by the collective in past interviews as the visual equivalent to noise music. Apart from their exhibition at galleryHOMELAND, Le Dernier Cri will pop up throughout the weekend while also teaching a three-day screenprinting class at the IPRC as part of the Projects' series of workshops. (Eberhardt Press will also host a workshop about bookbinding, and other learning events dot the weekend.)
On Friday night, Floating World hosts a book signing to celebrate new releases by Jonny Negron and Sammy Harkham. After the signing, Jason T. Miles, Chris Cilla, and Matthew Thurber will conduct a group interview with the artists, and later in the night, festivalgoers will head to a house party at "Mike's Basement" to catch musical performances by Le Dernier Cri, the Tenses (members of Smegma), and Thurber. (The house party address is in the program, which you can get at the fest.)
E*Rock (Eric Mast) and his audiovisual collective Plink Flojd take over the Hollywood Theatre on Saturday night—think "animation supergroup fueled by Pink Floyd samples"—alongside Regular Music (members of Sun Angle and Panther) and Nice Nice (tickets are $7).
For Sunday's closing party at Holocene (also $7), Experimental Half-Hour will screen some weirdness, with live music by Atole, Apartment Fox, Wild Thing, and Good Night Billygoat, who create stop-motion animations that are scored live.
As much designed for the comics-curious as for dedicated members of the picture-books community, the Projects aims to be a different kind of narrative arts festival, one distinct from the commercial conventions America has seen. And it sounds like a really fun three-day party that will cost you at most $14. Not 'alf bad.