Sunday 22nd May 2011, in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and opposite the Sydney Opera House, the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) hosted a zine fair as part of the 2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival. 50 tables plus 1 bar were trading to a reasonably sizable crowd. It was a fusion of the literary and the artistic being a collaboration between a writers’ festival and a contemporary art gallery. Increasingly comics are being seen in art galleries due to their increased cultural status, literary and artistic elements, and the growing popularity of graphic novels.
The make-up of the stall-holders on the trading floor was a bit of a mystery with a notable presence of craft makers selling jewellery and accessories that led to complaints by some comics creators who were unable to acquire a table and there was the inevitable grumbling from some of those about the application and selection process not being all that transparent.
This is an architecturally and culturally significant site. The distinctive MCA building is located on the edge of the harbour at Circular Quay near the Bridge and Opera House. You can even arrive at the MCA by ferry as was the fashion last year during the Sydney Biennale.
Stallholders/publications included Naomi Hatchman and Zeera the Space Pirate, the Sticky Institute, Chris Mikul and Bizarrism, Black Mermaid, Stuart Stratu and Blackguard, Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr and SCAR, Milk Shadow Books and Tough Titties.
Through the publication of his anthology Sick Puppy Comix Stratu displayed a plurality of graphic styles from a range of alternative comics contributors whose content was both provocative and oppositional.
This is the first in a series of posts called Archives of Australian Comics History that document moments in the recent history of Australian comics, particularly alternative comics and the Australian Small Press. I started researching this subject in the late 1990s and it eventually led to my PhD thesis: Ph.D. Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy, A Study Of Contemporary Australian Alternative Comics 1992-2000 With Particular Reference To The Work Of Naylor, Smith, Danko And Ord, 2003. On completion of the research I donated the materials and comics I had collected to the National Library of Australia: Michael Hill Collection of Australian Comics. Posts in Archives of Australian Comics History: Comic-Fest Comics in Record Shops Comics Workshops Down Under Ground Getting SMASH(ed)! Imaginary Worlds Symposium International Exhibition of Drawings OZCON Mind Rot Savage Pencils Sick Puppy Comix TiNA Arena MCA Zine Fair 2002 Sequential Art Studies Conference 2nd Sequential Art Studies Conference