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Day 1 / Sat 11 Feb
When I get to Centro Cultural Recoleta, the cultural center in Buenos Aires that has generously offered us residency, Maartje Schalkx is already there. She arrived a day earlier, spending the extra time visiting our Chicks on Comics exhibition ‚Long Distance Relationship‘ in Fundación PROA: the reason we are here. Thank you Cintia Mezza (curator) for inviting us and treating us so well!
The day before, Maartje met Caro Chinaski and Delius for the first time in person. We have worked together in the collective since nearly a decade, but Maartje living in London and Caro and Delius in Buenos Aires have only communicated online. The rest of us met one way or another, if not 4 years ago when we exhibited in Berlin.
I have time to shower, freshen up. We find a small supermarket and buy fruit, avocados, bread, eggs, juice, coffee and tea: our delicious breakfast for the remaining of our 10 day stay.
Powerpaola arrives. We go to PROA by cab to save time.
I see the show for the first time. That day we have two talks in the auditorium. One with all of COC interviewed by Laura Vazquez, comic critic, author, academic and teacher. The second is with Maartje and me, interviewed by Leandro Cerliani, graphic designer and teacher. We are thankful for live translation by Pablo Turnes. In the beginning I understand almost everything, then towards the end of the second talk the overnight flight starts taking its toll and my brain starts feeling like pudding, all cognitive function melting away.
I get quoted saying I’m inspired by reality but never tell the truth. It was a reaction to Maartje saying that in her experience, reality is more interesting than fiction. I had just wanted to offer an opposing possibility. The quote becomes a fun running gag, I no longer have to be considered reliable.
The day at PROA ends with a zine fair and ‚Fanzine à la carte‚: 151 artists have contributed a page of silent comic about art. Visitors can pick favorite pages and staple their own zine. The comic and silkscreen artist Camila Torre Notari helps out. I get to meet comic artist and musician Marianna Gil Ríos for the first time in person. I’ve known her online for some time. We exchange work. Some people at the zine fair: (comic) artists Otto Zaiser, Maria Luque and zine maker/LGTBQactivist/journalist Diego Trerotola.
We all have beers together in La Boca, I meet Nacha Vollenweider, who lives in Hamburg. A neighbor! Then we eat Peruvian in San Telmo. The food is exactly what you could wish for. Exhausted we go home by colectivo (bus).
Day 2 / Sun 12 Feb
They took a lot of photos yesterday. I don’t like seeing myself in them. It’s raining. We don’t have umbrellas. We take forever on deciding what to do. Maartje wants to preconceive our route. This is my 4th time visiting Buenos Aires, a lot of the city comes back to me as we go. I want to go outside and see what we run into. Maartje doesn’t consider torrential rain a good starting point. At the last minute we leave the residency with half a plan. We want one bus, find another and wait under a nearby tree to stay half dry.
We are meeting in Delius and Powerpaola in Centro Cultural Kirchner, a truly impressive cultural center in the former central post office built in the 1920s, it only just opened in 2015 and it’s new to me.
Completely against our expectations we are on time to the minute. We feel very Dutch.
We’re there for 2 sound installation pieces by Brian Eno. As we all lie down on the floor of the sound installation “The Ship” we feel suddenly very moved. The reality of what we have succeeded in with our project “Long Distance Relationship” sinks in. We are happy and proud and feel blessed with opportunity. The sound piece is mesmerizing. Maartje and Delius write in their notebooks.
We walk up Avenida Corrientes and have coffees in a cafe called Gato Negro.
That evening at 7pm is the first open drawing studio hosted by Chicks in Comics in CCRecoleta. We mostly draw freely and I make portraits of others drawing.
Afterwards with a bunch of people who show up we have dinner at the pizza chain restaurant ‚Conti‘. Then we have big wobbly ice creams in Avenida Pueyrredon.
Day 3 / Monday 13 Feb
Today no program. More rain. Maartje and I walk a bunch. We buy umbrellas. We visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a bookstore in a former theater dating from 1919. We both buy sketchbooks. Two books with nothing but blank pages, bought in a bookstore. I feel a pinch of vanity. I buy sketch books at a higher rate than I fill them.
On Av. Scalabrini Ortiz we look around in an art supply store to see if we find anything we don’t know from home. Maartje buys a few binder clip rings to secure a door hinge in her new studio, though I’m still not sure how that works. Her new studio is the object of many of our conversations. This year she opened her own paper restoration studio with a colleague: Foley Schalkx Conservation.
At 4pm we move towards the corner with Paraguay to a little local café called Varela Varelita where Sole Otero reguarly draws. Today we’re with many. Sole has artists staying at her house who came to BsAs for the COC projects. They will participate in the mural and the open talks: Supnem from Chile, Mariana Gil Ríos from Colombia and Noiryaguara from Venezuela. Also there, amongst others, are Sofia La Watson and Gabi Coco. Sofia asks me to tell her a love story of mine in exchange for a drawing, she is collecting them. I primarily decline. There is a short confusion when a guy shows up and asks if we are ‚the drawing club‘ which we are not. A little later ‚the real‘ club de dibujo settles into the tables next to ours.
I slip away to go to nearby Av. Cordoba where I buy Pony shoes, which I had been planning to do. When I come back we all leave to meet Ernan Cirianni and Ibn Al Rabin in a bar. We play pool and ping pong and eat french fries. Supne and I talk about her activist work in sex ed. and about the black humor in her comics. Later that night Noiryaguara tells me about their travels around South America financed by selling drawings and stickers and how that was inspired by the German tradition called, ‚Wanderjahre‘ (a journey of apprenticeship as initiation rite into a career in crafts ).
Day 4 / Tuesday 14 Feb
It’s still raining. Maartje and me walk to the nearby Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno, Argentina’s largest library. A brutalist design from the 1960s when it was conceived, and the 1970s, when building started during a period when Jorges Luis Borges was the director of the library and on grounds that was the very symbolic former location of Juan and Evita Perón’s ‚Unzué’s Palace‘.
Sightseeing Brutalist architecture is one of my favorite touristy things to do so we walk around excitedly and I swing my umbrella too much until the handle breaks off.
We then walk on to the botanical garden to draw but it’s closed due to ‚bad weather‘. Maartje lives in hope of a café inside the garden but there isn’t one. We sit in a nearby café I remember from last visits and we eat lemon pie.
Better adapted to local custom, we are on the late side when we take the subte to Powerpaolas house. We’re getting together at her house in Belgrano for a meeting. We discuss current COC and future COC. Later more cartoonists arrive and we have dinner and a party.
Day 5 / Wednesday 15 Feb
Maartje goes to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes where she falls heavily for a medieval bust of a bishop. I go by subte to Punc Librería in Villa Crespo. There I get to meet Juana Neumann, owner and brain of Punc. I realise I forgot to bring merch and zines. We sit on a bench out front and drink coffee that she gets from across the street. I love the neighborhood, it’s quiet, the buildings are one- or two-story, a friendly comic bookstore among nothing but similarly chummy car garages. Peaceful car tinkering all around. I leave after buying a book and some zines and realise already underway that I forgot to pay for my coffee. I go to Parque Centenario nearby because I want to draw but once I’m there I have to go already and catch my bus back. In the bus I think that I should have drawn Punc from across the street. I forgot. I can do it using google earth when I’m in Berlin.
Powerpaola has two boxes that she brings to Maartje and me at our residency. They are filled with the materials for the workshops. Clara Lagos and Delius soon join us and we sit down to prepare for the workshops that we will be giving in pairs.
Afterwards there is another open drawing studio at CCRecoleta. The other COCs volunteer questions and everybody at the event works on dialogue jams / style auto-bio. I sit down with Sofia La Watson and tell her a love story. She draws me a portrait. After that we all have empanadas at the “Conti‘ again even though everyone agrees it sucks there but nobody can think of any good place nearby. Of course later they can.
Day 6 / Thursday 16 Feb
The first 3 workshops are today. Everybody gets stuck in traffic on their separate ways going to PROA. Sole and me meet in a café outside PROA and prepare our workshop. We set up a merch table. For some reason we do this on a little kid table and sit for the duration of the day on little kid chairs.
In the evening we go to Espacio Moebius which is a publisher, gallery and shop in comics and illustration, charmingly run by a team effort and Martin Ramon who I meet. We go to see Mariana Gil’s show, “Hola, : ) Estás? No Estás?” and La Watson tattooing as ‚Bananaranjas‚. In what seems only shortly after, Power, Sole, Paula Sosa Holt and me each get super cute itty bitty tattoos. They are endearing. They are a flying saucer, a captain’s hat, a skull and a strawberry.
In the evening we eat at another Peruvian. Its delicious. We eat the same dish called Ceviche which is seafood, chili, coriander, cream sauce, red onion, with a side of sweet patato and corn.
Then Power, Mariana, Delius, Ernan and I drink three ‚last beers‘ at a bar, have a lot of laughs and draw jam comics.
Day 7 / Friday 17 Feb
The next 3 workshops are today.
After, Power, Maartje and me rest at Delius‘ house. We want to be rested for the Noche de Dibujantes. ‚Night of the Drawers‘, as this (badly) translates to, is a new festival with a daring concept. On a large scale, festival size, for one night, they put cartoonists on stages, in arenas and in 3 big square pens with 16 arranged tables for the cartoonists to take place behind, at arranged hours and places, while the audience actually pays entrance and queues up to the tables.
Whereas Ceviche or the collected tattoos of Power, Sole, Paula and me are everything I love, this, is a combination of everything I hate. Crowds. Drawing with people watching. Drawing on cue. Drawing requests. The other COCs have their slots at 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm. Mine is from 12-2am and I don’t know anybody at my table. Horror. By the time I start I have obviously had two large beers. In an actual ‚backstage‘ area. For cartoonists. Today is backward day!!
But each and every visitor is sweet as <insert swearword> and I do mostly portraits. Smiling and making eye contact with complete strangers. At 2 am the organisers have to insist on kicking me out. We all end up having an awesome time. We feel like rock stars.
Day 8 / Saturday 18 Feb
Day of the mural painting. Today we’re cutting loose all ties with our cultural roots. Maartje and me arrive late.
At the same time two open talks take place in the auditorium. I’m sorry I missed them. I had intended on going.
At the end of the day we go to Espacio Moebius. Great fanfare, sense of accomplishment and intent of celebration on the way there. We arrive and every one plumps down on the couches. We’re too tired. We get vegetarian take out from a Chinese food-bar around the corner. The streets are closed off for the night carnival celebrations.
Maartje and me go home because we want to get up on time on our last day.
Day 9 / Sunday 19 Feb
We visit Clara Lagos at her house who takes us through Olivos and San Isidrio, areas outside the city with river access. We hang, lick our wounds and marvel at tiny humming birds in a ‚palo borracho‘ tree with pink flowers.
In the evening we meet with all the COCs and Marianna in a vegetarian restaurant in Palermo. Afterwards we get ice cream and emotional. We try to picture ourselves in 10 years.
Note: if you recognise yourself in a picture and don’t want that, let me know, also if I have made mistakes or misspelt anything, send me a message.