A while ago I was asked to write an article on a costume and retro clothing shop on Grange Road. Being a lover of old music and funky clothes, I immediately said a wholehearted yes and got in touch with the lovely owner of Retrojam, Julie. We organised a date and I hopped in my car, blasting some Doors and Rolling Stones.
Before I even stepped foot inside the shop, the dresses on the mannequins had already excited me for what was to come. Printed 50’s Rockabilly dresses exuded the potential of the clothes waiting inside. When I first entered the shop, Julie was serving a customer. She greeted me with a smile and showed me around quickly whilst the customer was getting dressed in his handpicked party costume. He emerged, looking like something straight out of the 1970’s, mullet wig and all. Julie explained that the patterned pants and the high-necked shirt were vintage 70s. After he changed back to his normal clothes I was shocked to see how much he had transformed. Julie had taken him right through the eras with her clothing knowledge and dressing expertise.
Julie was everything I expected and more for such a unique shop. She was lively, dynamic, engaging and just someone who you could chat to for hours. She took me through the shop design that she built from scratch, with some help from her builder. Racks and racks of psychedelic prints and shelves of bright, florescent Go-Go boots were just some of the beautiful items available for rent. Sourced from her own private collection, America, and local op shops, most of the clothes available for rent are authentically retro.
Julie has been in the clothing industry for her whole working life. She has been dressing customers since 1974 showing she has experience through the ages. If you’re stuck for a costume or a groovy outfit, Julie can dress you from head to toe. Her shop is much loved and has provided clothes for a whole range of events, even including a wedding!
Next time you’re stuck for a costume to wear, or something fancy that will stun friends and family, I would highly suggest Retrojam. Whether you shop on the website or in person, the authenticity of the clothing and the crystal clean condition they come in is something that can’t be matched. Put that with the personal service and the wonderfully bubbly Julie, I wouldn’t go anywhere else.
Quirky Quentin is a unique kind of children’s book. Released in August 2018 by Adelaide author Indianna Bell and illustrated by New Zealander Aleksandra Szmidt, Quirky Quentin is based on the character of Quentin, who is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The story is told from his sister’s perspective and is her take on Quentin’s daily life.
“I wanted to write a book that would help young kids,” Bell said, “especially those with classmates or siblings on the spectrum to better understand [Autism] spectrum and ultimately embrace everyone’s differences.”
Bell was inspired to write Quirky Quentin after helping out at a special needs school as part of a week-long year 11 service program. It was there that she met an ASD boy. She didn’t want to say goodbye and instead went on to do some in-house care work with the family. She has been working with the family ever since.
One of the common traits of people with Autism are their unique quirks. When describing Quentin’s quirks, Bell said: “Quentin has an affinity for collecting red baseball caps. He has a huge collection hanging on his wall, just where they should be. He also loves to watch cars and trucks driving by his house- he would stand there and watch them all day if his mum let him.” As much as Quentin loves traffic, he also forgets to look when he crosses the road. He also hates the texture of mashed potato but loves the texture of carpet.
The main aim for Quirky Quentin is to educate children about ASD. Bell wishes for children to identify that those like Quentin have the same desires for friendship and acceptance as those who don’t have ASD. “The more that kids hear about ASD the more normalised autism will become in their world,” she said. “Once a child understands this, it’s not so difficult for them to find a connection between themselves and someone with ASD.”
Quentin’s level on the spectrum is left ambiguous in the book. “I didn’t want to exclude any part of the spectrum by defining Quentin’s Autism to one extreme or another,” Bell said. “In this way Quentin is a kind of blend of everyone I’ve ever met on the spectrum – I hope that he embodies a lot of different and relatable qualities.”Littl
Writing a character who is different can be challenging for any author. As for Bell, she admits it was quite difficult to write the character of Quentin. As people’s experiences with ASD are different, she wanted to go with a balancing act: between something that’s personal and something diverse. She decided to base Quentin primarily on the people she’s worked with and what she’s experienced from working with them. She was also lucky to have parents of children with ASD read the book and say they saw their child in Quentin.
Bell says she’s never met illustrator Aleksandra Szmidt in person. Bell was connected to Aleksandra through her publisher, Little Steps Publishing, when they showed her a list of illustrators. “One day soon I’d love to go visit her in New Zealand,” she says, “and give her a massive hug to say thank you for all the brilliant work that she did.” She also recommends Szmidt to anyone who is looking for an illustrator.
Depicting ASD in art and pop culture has always been a challenge due to its complexity. Since her mind has become attuned to ASD, Bell’s views have become more critical and personal. One thing she has noticed is that people with ASD in movies are often portrayed as a genius with a photographic memory or amazing music skills. “Whilst any kind of representation is great,” she said, “I don’t think it is really giving people the full picture of what Autism can be.”
Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.
1615, Tokugawa Ieyasu reduced Osaka Castle to ruins. Its destruction brought an end to the age of war, giving Ieyasu complete control of the Japanese archipelago. In its place was the era of ‘peace’, officially known as the Edo period. Named from the capital Edo (present-day Tokyo), the Edo period lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The era was captured through the eyes and hands of its artists. The exhibition, as part of the 2018 OzAsia Festival, will be at the David Roche Foundation until December 1.
As you walk into the first room you are immediately transported back to the Edo period. To your right is a hanging scroll of Enma, the King of Hell, glaring at a family through his crystal mirror. To your left are woodblock paintings of different people and scenes, one being The Courtesan Akashi of the Tamaya.
On the far side of the room are panels showing a view of Edo Period Kyoto. It shows sights that are still popular today like Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace. Along the walls to the right of the panels are period artefacts, including a collection of Buddhist figurines which has been part of the Japanese religious culture for centuries. The centre has a period pot and an 18th-century Illustrated Guide behind Foreign Textiles by Naniwa Shorin Publishers, also hidden behind glass.
Stepping into the second room there is a samurai suit that catches your attention. It stands in the centre of the room, tall, brave, and honourable as if possessed by the spirit of its original wearer. However, the way of the samurai in the Edo period lost its relevance, reducing them to the roles of patrolmen.
The samurai suit isn’t the only thing in the room, there is an array of art and artefacts throughout. On the left, you come across a picnic set and can’t help wonder what food they ate and where they had it. Were they looking over at Mount Fuji or sitting in front of the Imperial Palace? You can only imagine. Your eyes shoot towards the katana (long sword) and a wakizashi (short sword) in the nearby display case. You wonder what it’ll feel like to grasp them in your hand and what it will be like to use one. Then you think of what it’d be like to wear a samurai suit while wielding it. Would it be easy to use or difficult?
Moving on to the right-hand side of the room you find a Nō (musical drama) costume and more panels. These panels depict battle scenes from the 14th-century Japanese military epic The Tales of Heike. The battle scenes are those of Heike’s clan’s stronghold fall at Ichinotani (present-day Kobe). Examining it you begin to hear the clanging of the katanas, the beating of horse hooves, and the warrior cries.
There is another panel in the third room, this one of the Seto Inland Sea, an important maritime region during the Edo period. The route connected the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu and was known for its treacherous travels. It was also the route taken to bring imported goods from Nagasaki to Osaka, which would then travel overland to Kyoto and Tokyo. Today it has largely now been replaced by road and rail systems.
Another woodblock painting on the right catches your interest, ‘Fine Wind, Clear Weather’, which depicts a snowless peak of Mount Fuji. It’s one of the few paintings from the 36 Views of Mount Fuji series on display. Moving to the left of the room you see a panel from the port at Nagasaki. Here you see these strange looking people are talking with the locals of the city. There is a black carrack on the left panel, a common Portuguese ship, sitting in the harbour. It makes you wonder what the people of the era would’ve thought, seeing these foreigners appearing in a strange looking boat. It would be intriguing, to meet a person from a big wide world you are forbidden to go out and see.
In the small final room there is a painting depicting westerners conversing and walking among the locals once again in Nagasaki. Its style allows you to see how the Western influences brought the end of the Edo period. Before stepping out you notice a book telling the story of the Japanese landscape. The eighteenth-century publication shows both the writer and illustrator’s amazement of a new world which until then they were forbidden to see.
Edo Style: The Art of Japan is the place to visit if you who have an interest in either Japanese art, culture or history, or all three together. You will step back in time to an age of peace, intrigue, and isolation from the outside world. The exhibition is a historical retelling of both Japan’s war-ridden tribal past and how it became an imperial power to challenge the likes of the European empires in the 20th century.
Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.
Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.
The Jade has long been a staple of Adelaide’s music scene and nightlife. It’s seen live music aplenty, creative readings, album launches, weddings, birthdays, and plenty of other varied events besides. Recently, Liam McNally sat down with Jade owner Zac Coligan to talk about the Jade’s history, it’s unique style, and even the establishment’s year-long absence as they moved venue.
You’ve been here for a while now. How much has the business changed over that time?
A fair bit. When we first moved in, we were expecting the older model of 95% live music and so we’ve set this room up, double insulated the roof. We do get lots of live music still but a lot of it is special occasions. I think some younger bands are a bit intimidated by this room. We get a lot of CD launches and things like that. In saying that, we’ve got a bunch of gigs happening. But what it’s morphed into is a lot more of a café culture here as well.
And perhaps more of an events space as well?
Yeah. People start to hear about us – and for us, it’s always word-of-mouth. We get a lot of different theatre shows, and seminars, and Music SA have done a lot of things here with guest speakers. We’ve got much more diverse events here which has been great.
This space is here to be used and it’s really quite a good space for all sorts of things. Especially quieter events.
How different is it to the old venue? (The Jade Monkey, on Twin Street).
When we initially started it (the Twin Street venue), we didn’t realise when we got our licence, we could only open from 9pm. We got an extension after a few years. It was a night time thing. And it was all about gigs. Every week there was two or three gigs on.
We’re mixing it up a lot more here because the space is a bit more flexible, whereas the old Jade was about the live music scene fundamentally.
Was there a conscious choice in changing the nature of the venue? You call it the Jade now rather than the Jade Monkey.
To be honest, we dropped the ‘monkey’ because my lovely wife Naomi hated that for years.
It was an interesting decision when we set up this place because we wanted to make it bright, and maybe ‘prettier’, if you will. It’s interesting as when you do a place like that, it kind of evokes the style of clientele you have. We get a good range here. Most people feel comfortable. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious shift but at the same time we wanted to entertain everything. And that’s the way it’s rolled, to be honest.
We made a real effort with this space. It’s a great spot for bands and it sounds wonderful in here.
Where did the name come from?
Initially it was because it was hidden little space and there’s that whole thing behind finding the jade monkey which is also a Simpsons joke.
How did bringing the food van, Phat Buddha Rolls, in change things?
It’s made a huge difference. We do everything ourselves, Naomi and I. There aren’t many places when it’s just two people running a venue, particularly of this size. We did food at first and it was very time consuming and difficult to get the numbers out quick. We did it for a little while and then went, ‘you know what? Let’s just outsource it’. We decided to approach Fork on the Road and get a food truck. It’s been really, really good.
It’s been about bringing people here to sit down and have a coffee, for us. And to bring people to sit down in the afternoon, to have a café culture, you need food.
What kind of difference has the location had?
[The proximity to] Rundle Mall didn’t have any advantage to us at all at the old Jade. We were only really open after 9pm as well. I feel that with this place because we’re lucky enough to have a really nice garden, and we’re set back from the road, people are often a bit confused about what’s going on. We’re not fans of putting a big ‘$10 parmi’ sign on the front. Every day we get someone who comes in and says they’ve walked past the place 50 times and now they’ve come in the door. Once we get them in the door we usually get them back.
Having a garden makes a huge difference. People love hanging out here. In summer, it’s just wonderful. A good space to be.
There are more separated spaces here than there were at the old place.
And that’s a huge difference for me. When you were part of the old Jade, you were part of the gig. If the gig bombed, you felt that. If the gig went off, you felt that. Now because [the bar is] separate [to the performance space] you still feel it but it’s a different thing.
It’s really good in that respect because you can have the front bar open all the time. People can just drop by for a drink any time they like but also you can have your own space here where everyone’s here to see the band.
How did that changeover period between the Twin Street venue and here go?
It took us a year. A lot of the problems were finding a space but also a year before we started looking at this place, a club called Heaven had been started here and terrorised the neighbourhood. They ended up in court and then they did a runner. We still saw some bills coming in that weren’t for us.
The neighbours didn’t want us here. I reckon there were about six months of roundtable discussions with liquor licencing. It was us against the residents, the church, and an architecture firm across the road.
We just persisted and they gave up in the end because we made a good case but they were trying to wait us out to get us to not do what we were doing.
People ask me about that time, did I think it was going to happen again? I had no doubts it was going to happen again. I didn’t know when.
The last weekend of the old Jade was a big event.
We did a big final weekend. I just handpicked all the bands I wanted to play. It was good. It was a really fun weekend. My manager here now, Josh, played on the Thursday night with his band, the Funky Scum Rumour. I got some rock bands like BTA and indie bands like Steering by Stars and my band, The Sea Thieves, played on the Sunday. It was a good way to see it out.
Considering your neighbours in the St Paul’s Creative Space, does that have an impact in who tends to come here?
We’ve done a lot of good things with those guys. And they’ll come over and say they want to do something and we go yeah. We’ve got a really good relationship with them. It’s funny because lots of people I’ve known for years in the music industry are working next door.
As far as neigbours go, couldn’t be any better.
They take up the lion’s share of the building so we wouldn’t have moved in without something like that next door. You don’t want someone starting a club there. Not that they’d be able to. There’s no way anyone’s going to do that ever again because they’ll end up in court before they start.
Did you get to have such a diversity of events at the old place – like spoken word events?
We did, but to be honest, the old place was all about the local music scene. So that’s what we had going on. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, we had gigs. We did have some spoken word nights though. We were 100% reliant on the event to make our money for the night. We still are to a certain degree here but we’re already open every Thursday and Friday night regardless of whether we’ve got something on or not. You can take a bit more of a punt as well. Some band gets in touch with us and says they’ve never done a gig before and they want to go a gig. We can go ‘sure, maybe a Thursday night, see how it goes and go from there.’ It’s even better for us here because we don’t have to concern ourselves whether they bring 300 people or ten. It obviously helps but it makes it a bit easier to entertain that.
We definitely had to rethink the nights we gave people at the old place because that’s 100% what we were about [there]. Bands brought people, we made money, they didn’t, we made no money.
We’re separate rent, separate tenancy – everyone thought we’re on some government-funded thing which was quite annoying because we are not at all. It’s all down to us.
During AVCon 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting fantasy artist, Anthony Christou. He had a wide variety of work on sale: all his original art, as well as his comic series, Luminous Ages, and card games in addition to the series. Recently, I was able to catch up with Christou to talk about his work and extensive successes as a working artist and illustrator.
Christou is a very driven person with a vibrant creative spark. He started off with a Bachelor of Visual Art before going on to do a Masters in Illustration at Uni SA. Christou soon after decided to follow his passion in game art and illustration. Christou began freelance work in the games industry and in 2012 decided to fully devote himself to this career. Christou worked with mentors such as Rob C. Richardson and Simon Scales, who encouraged him to further develop his work. Through exhibiting with Adelaide Illustrators, Christou secured enough freelance work to support himself.
In 2013, Christou worked on a New Zealand Kickstarter game called Path of Exile. It was here that he learned more about the games industry. For Path of Exile Christou worked on a number of aspects including illustration, 3D modelling, concept art, assets, and in-game artwork. It was during this year that Christou began his convention work, attended Adelaide Supernova for the first time, and achieved insane sales for his original fantasy art. Christou now attends up to eighteen conventions a year, earning a profit large enough to make a comfortable living. Since then he has given talks at both Supanova and Comic-Con. The best part about conventions, he says, is that you get to leave the house and make new friends.
While much of his work is digital, Christou still works with traditional mediums as well. His piece ‘Dangerous Seas’ became the cover art for The Path Less Travelled’s album ‘Cast Out the Crowds’. Christou spoke about being approached by a lady who told him that every time she feels sad she looks at ‘Dangerous Seas’ and it reminds her she can make it through the storm. He was surprised to find that his work could have such an impact on people.
In 2014, Christou decided to explore his interest in making a comic series. Luminous Ages is now four issues in and remains the second highest funded comic Kickstarter in Australia with only 180 backers and a pledge of around $17,000. Thanks to this funding, Christou is able to hire freelance artists and editors to help bring his project to life. Rob C Richardson, Anthony Earl, Elena Lukina, and Christy Butt worked closely with Christou on this project.
Luminous Ages itself is a series set in a surreal world where dreams can become reality. Thirteen dragon gods are fighting for control of both the dream and real world plane. It is up to the main character, Thrakos, and a cast of dream mages to keep them at bay. The series blends cultures and mythologies together to create a multi-cultural fantasy which addresses environmental issues.
A mixture of cultures and mythologies, Luminous Ages presents a story which heralds both multiculturalism and environmentalism. The series gives Christou not only the opportunity to explore his interests but his artistic potential. Contrary to the American style comics which we are most familiar with, Christou works in a style which is very similar to French or Italian, providing richly detailed illustrations in a comic format.
As well as game design and illustration, Christou has also worked with a number of film companies including Disney, Two-tone Studios, and Wolf Creek Productions.
Christou recommends exploring your artistic freedom and not to work for free too much. He says, ‘creativity can be blocked when you work with the wrong people.’ He notes that there are lots of opportunities within Australia, plenty more than when he started out. He also stresses the importance of taking a break, saying he usually gives himself one day off a week and a couple of weeks each year. Without breaks you can’t generate new ideas.
Being an artist is an endurance race. You need to spend a lot of time developing your work and looking after yourself. And it needs to be sustainable.
He reminds us that artists and writers are a business, and you need to understand creative business. You can’t have everything for nothing and you can’t expect it to be easy. We don’t live in an age like DaVinci and Michaelangelo whose artistic development was sponsored by the church and the military respectively.
When asked about the most difficult aspects of being a working artist, Christou said it was the financial side, business, and the sacrifices you have to make for your passion. His favourite things about working full time as an artist are, of course, sleeping and travelling, but also creating images from his mind, he loves being able to “bring his imagination to life.”
Christou’s next major project is a Kickstarer for theme decks of his card game Dragon Dreams. The Kickstarter is due to launch at 5:30pm Adelaide time today. That’s in just a few hours! You can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/luminousages/
Walking into Fanny Adams Vintage the first thing I noticed was how entrenched in 80s and 90s pop culture it was, with the walls of the staircase covered in movie posters. Stepping into the kitchen area, murals by different artists covering the walls, my eyes were drawn to the enchanting replication of a large tree – its blue, purple and green hues gave it a mystical element. In the adjoining room racks full of denim, t-shirts and pants sat ready for purchase, all of which had their own original and personal flair, customised to maintain originality. Fanny Adams Vintage is also home to Project Awesome, a collection of colourful, pop-culture influenced, customised denim by local Adelaide artists, with each design being unique and never again to be replicated.
I sat down with Tiphany (owner of Fanny Adams Vintage) in the kitchen area, parallel to the television which played Dirty Dancing, while Blondie’s Atomic played in the background.
When did you initially set up the store and what did you envision it would become?
It started off as being online and then a pop-up store at the Fringe which was located just on Pirrie Street. I always wanted it to be a physical location. Online, [it] was just easier to start that way but I always just wanted my own space. The pop-up store went quite well. I was supposed to stay there for a little bit longer, four weeks of the Fringe and then the option to stay on but at the last minute it was offered to a big chain store, so I had to bump out the last day of the Fringe – that was a bit of a panic. This place popped up within the next week which was lucky. It just snowballed into that and so now in this premise because it’s a little bit bigger we can do events and stuff.
When Fanny Adams first started it was just vintage clothes as that was my first passion. I personally like vintage clothes because they’re unique, nobody else has got it… I don’t like looking like everyone else with what I wear. I like having things no one else can have. I started seeing all this customised denim on Instagram and it didn’t seem fair that only models get customised denim jackets. I want one as well. And I know I can’t make one but I can definitely get hold of jackets and I know people who can make one. That’s how Project Awesome started. I just found five artists that were willing to come on board and give it a try. And I was working at another vintage store at the time so I stocked the jackets through the store as well as on Etsy just to sort of test the market and to see how well they would actually sell in Adelaide and they did really well so that was the beginning of 2017 and the by mid-year I did a second run of denim jackets and then by the end of the year I was gearing up to do the pop up store at the Fringe so I had twenty artists on board by the end of the year.
I just kept going with it. People seem to like it. It’s a popular concept and that grew again because all of the artists involved kept saying how much they would like to connect with other artists and that it can feel quite isolating working as an artist you don’t really get that often a chance to connect to other people and to talk about contacts and processes. So we had a catch up drinks and that went really well.
The Project Awesome crew – or the Fanny Pack as I like to call them – they’ve grown into quite a little artist collective. Everything that is stocked in the shop now that’s all ‘Pack’ merchandise.
Now we’ve got the events as well. We had a music gig last Saturday, [the 28th of July]. Again, the musician was one of my artists.
Have there been any changes to the original vision?
Yes, definitely. It just keeps growing. I didn’t set out with the intention of being an artist collection. And I certainly didn’t set out with the intention to do events either. That’s all just sort of formed from the response from the artists. They’ve just been so wonderful to work with I just wanted to help the artists themselves and [offer] different ways of getting them out to a further audience than to what they would do on their own. I have no idea what’s coming next but that’s part of the fun.
Where did the name Fanny Adams come from?
I wanted a name that was like an old school saying you’d hear your grandparents but wanted a name that wasn’t as typical as a lot of the names around at the time. I liked the fact that it broke down to FA the beloved Aussie slang ‘fuck all’. Fanny Adams was one of the first things that popped into my head and it kind of just stuck. It was catchy and a little bit risqué on some levels.
What do you want your customers to feel when they enter the store? What experience do you want them to have?
I would love Fanny Adams to be seen as the ultimate safe space for self-expression and creativity. I want them to feel happy and comfortable and inspired which seems to be happening and seems to be the feedback I’m getting from a lot of people which is great. With the clothing in particular I’ve always had the mindset that it’s not male or female. It’s unisex. It all should be unisex. I want anyone that comes in that is on any kind of journey of self-expression or self-discovery to feel free to be able to try anything on. If you put it on and it feels good and it fits then wear it. It’s not ‘oh I can’t because that’s a girl thing’. I want to try and cultivate that kind of mindset, to help be more inclusive.
What do you feel sets Fanny Adams out from other stores?
I think it’s the combination of the product offering. I try to keep the stock quite specialised to 80s and 90s but Project Awesome really is the standout and that’s really what I want the focus to be on helping Adelaide and the Adelaide artist crew. The jackets are such unique pieces, having a specific collection from a group of so many different people, so many diverse styles, in one direct spot.
What project have you been most proud of?
The jackets and the fact that the artists have got together so beautifully and that has become a collective has become incredibly rewarding and that definitely has become a driver for me and I’ve realised that what I really want to do is not just have a shop but the real joy comes from working with these amazing, creative, talented people of so many different backgrounds and all of them have been a delight to work with and so willing to participate.
If you could tell your customers one thing before they entered the store what would it be?
Just to not be shy. Come in and experience all of it. Don’t be afraid to try something different, to find the inner you, to let it come out whether that be through art or clothes or whether that’s through your choice of music. I’m a lover of pop culture because I believe it is a reflection of our time and can be a reflection of yourself and that’s really important to discover and be true to.
Could you please explain your involvement with SALA and what do customers and festival attendees have to look forward too?
We have a registered SALA event and is called ‘Radelaide on Denim’, which does have a hashtag and does have an Instagram page as well. It is a collection of 15 of my artists involved. There will be a hung exhibition of their artwork. We are launching on 11th of August which is our opening night and on that night, we will also be holding a little mini fashion parade, showcasing all of the jackets and we will have all of the hair and makeup done by Colour Cosmetica.
The exhibition will remain hung until the 31st of August. All artworks will be available for sale. The shop will be trading as normal. Kick off at 6 o’clock. Doors open at 6, parade at 7 and we’ll be going through until 10. It’s a free event as well.
Are there any future projects we can look forward too?
During Feast Festival we are hosting an installation by Danny Jarrett, who’s one of my artists. He will be commandeering this kitchen space into what I believe will be called ‘Queerzone’. We will definitely have a launch night for that and are looking into booking a second event to tie in with the Feast Festival.
I’ve wanted to start aiming for an event a month, so we’re probably going to try and do some more music gigs.
Can’t wait for Fringe, God knows what we’re going to do.
I personally cannot wait to see what Fanny Adams will create next. Not only are the clothes on offer original, fantastic and vintage, it has become a refuge for artists and a place where art can flourish. Adelaide’s local artist scene plays such an important role in a unique local business, making it a business to definitely look out for and support.
AVCon is a three-day festival that runs during July and signals the end to both the school and uni break. In 2017 it attracted over 20,000 visitors and this year I suspect that record was broken. It is a place where avid lovers of video games, cosplay, pop-culture, and anime come together to share that passion. Run entirely by volunteers, AVCon is an example of a small community coming together in real life as opposed to the forums many visitors undoubtedly frequent to discuss the latest in games, cosplay, and anime.
Walking through AVCon, where-ever you might be, it’s not unusual to hear someone gasp over a cosplayer, artwork, or piece of merchandise they’ve been coveting all year. Adelaide has a lot of amazing talent and, for me, that is where AVCon shines. Not only do we have a strong community surrounding anime and videogames, but we have a range of talented artists with varying art styles who converge to sell their wares and display their skill.
Each year the convention begins with the opening ceremony on the Friday evening—generally characterised by weekend and gold-pass holders gathering in the foyer of the Convention Centre for up to a couple of hours before the doors open. This year was the first year I attended the opening ceremony. We were introduced to the organisers, volunteers, special guests, and the spirit of AVCon with a skit which blurred the lines of dream and reality. The special guests for 2018 included Major Sam, Spike Spencer, Vera Chimera, Neil Kaplan, Beke, and Knitemaya who were all involved in panels across the weekend. The ceremony was followed by a screening of Ready Player One in conjunction with Hybrid World Adelaide.
With Saturday morning came a rush of people flocking in to enjoy the weekend. In the gaming hall there was a mixture of free-play and indie games, as well as some of the weekend’s gaming tournaments (which were also held on the Sunday). In the Exhibitors Hall there was a selection of stalls selling official merchandise as well as stalls promoting Marion and City Libraries, HIDIVE streaming service, and CDW Studios. Beyond the hall was the chaos of Artist Alley. Downstairs you could find panels, special guests, and anime screenings from both HIDIVE and Madman.
With the evening came the ever-popular quiz night with forty-nine tables competing for the prize and privilege of first place. Unfortunately, this year the quiz wasn’t as enjoyable as it has been in previous years with challenging questions and barely anything accessible to your non-gamer. Unfortunately, the winning team disappeared before they could claim their prize and their prize was passed on. I can only hope that next year’s questions will be better and more specific to avoid confusion and that next year’s winners will remain present.
The cosplay competition on Sunday was a wonderful display of talent from local and interstate cosplayers who cosplayed a range of people from games, anime, and pop-culture. Some had spent months on their costumes and others just a few sleepless days. One thing was consistent however, the attention to detail each cosplayer had for their costume, all doing a fantastic job of portraying their chosen character and their personalities. One highlight of the competition was seeing a Xenomorph come onto stage and break out into dance.
My highlight was, predictably, Artist Alley. I’ve always loved the scattering of stalls, the friendly faces, and familiar fan-art portraying characters I knew and didn’t, as well as those I’d long since forgotten. Artist Alley isn’t just fan art; Decay Comics, indie author Matt J. Pike (whose self-published book series Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is set in Adelaide), and Anthony Christou (a full time visual artist) stood out from the crowd by providing their own unique work. Artist Alley had a wide variety of products on offer ranging from prints and badges all the way to socks and scarves printed with original designs.
I’ve always found that AVCon is what you make of it. It is a wonderful place to engage with the gaming, cosplay, Lolita, and anime communities here in Adelaide. It’s also a place to meet new people and form life-long friendships. It offers a sense of belonging for people of all ages and celebrates the talents of video game enthusiasts. Overall I’ve always found it a friendly environment and would recommend getting a friend or two and heading in next year if you can afford it.
Have you ever wanted to visit an art gallery that shows the relationship between art, science, and technology? Well, fear no more for MOD is the place for you. Opened in 2018, MOD is an art gallery where you can view art based on subjects like augmented reality, astronomy, and robotics. Being a bit of a science nerd (astronomy in particular), I have been eager to visit MOD. Upon visiting it, I was enthralled and absorbed into its world of interactive wonders.
The first exhibit I visited was Prosthetic Reality (an Augmented Reality exhibition) in the Lecture Gallery on the ground floor. As you can see in the image below, it appears to a casual observer just an exhibit of pop art. However, if you have the EyeJack app (available on both iOS and Android devices) you can download the exhibition and it will be transformed. Using the AR feature, the artworks come to life with colour, animation, and sound. For example, one of these artworks tells a story of a Japanese town destroyed by a disaster. Its main picture is of the town before the disaster, but through EyeJack, it plays Japanese style music and shows it destroyed through animation. I discovered more of these set up across the museum, which was a surprising addition. It gave me motive to explore the entire gallery to find them all.
Another exhibit within the MOD I found interesting looked into genetically modified babies. Displayed in the Gould Interactive Gallery, this demonstrated what we may have to do to survive on Earth if we keep going the way we are. All these babies are displayed in wheel-around newborn beds from hospitals. One baby that really stood out to me had a head with strange gill-like curves on its sides. To me, it appeared as if a Ferengi and a Klingon from the Star Trek universe had a child. There was explanation on a nearby wall, this modification would be necessary to survive higher temperatures on Earth. It is a frightening possibility and seeing it in model form really got my creative mind running.
There was a small part of artificial intelligence and robotics near the genetic modification exhibit. You could stand in the middle of a room and an AI would supposedly learn and copy your movement. I tried this out, but could not comprehend how it worked, which was unfortunate. The idea behind it is really cool and I do recommend you to give it a go. Perhaps you will figure out how it works. Also, part of that exhibit was a model of a robotic head. Upon first glance, it looks exactly like a human head (with extremely realistic skin), but its eyes move and it speaks. It was like stepping into Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Seeing it alongside the movement exhibit made me realise it was part of the human-like features which AI and robots of the future may soon have.
Perhaps my favourite exhibit in the whole of MOD was the Our Sky exhibit in the Universal Gallery. A Science on a Sphere (currently the only one in Australia) sits in the middle of the room with screens on all the walls. With a computer board, you can cycle through the planets and moons in our Solar System which appear on the Science On a Sphere. As you can see below, Jupiter appears on it, but I could easily change it to Mars or Enceladus (a moon of Saturn). With the screens on the walls, you could surf the Solar System and check out the many different astronomical signs. Perhaps what really made this exhibit fantastic is the inclusion of science and astronomy from the First Australians. This is shown through video and sound, which play above the gallery. This addition gives a fresh, more Australian perspective on astronomy and science and has me eager to learn more about First Australian astronomy.
MOD is a fantastic place to check out the relationship between art, science, and technology. If you are a sci-fi fan or into science and technology I highly recommend you visit this place. You can find it on the western side of the Morphett Street bridge on North Terrace (north side) on UniSA’s City West campus. Entry is free and it is open six days a week (closed Mondays). More information can be found here.
Rhino Room, Howling Owl and Urban Cow Studio are a big trinity in the Adelaide arts and hospitality scene, and you can’t take one without the others. Mick Krieg, the man behind the magic, welcomed me into the Howling Owl – a café and gin den. Over a 10/10 latte, we had a good old yarn about music, comedy, visual arts, and everything in between.
The man owns all three businesses, so first port of call was to find out where to start.
Mick’s thoughts immediately went to his first venue, Urban Cow, which was opened as an opportunity to provide somewhere for local artists to sell their work.
It started with Urban Cow; and at the time I was with a girl who was a ceramicist and she was doing some stuff through Jam Factory. We really wanted to open our own place, so we started out with people just bringing stuff in and being able to sell it. And basically, when we broke up I took over and just kept running that. We were doing these massive exhibition openings at the time – an opportunity to have a bit of a party. Back in the old building [13 Frome Street, Adelaide] at this one really busy exhibition opening, we opened the doors to the new space next door because we were worried the floor of the old space was going fall in. And then everyone spilled in. We were all sitting around, sipping wine, and one of my friends, Charlie Hillsmith, who had a painting in the exhibition, looks around and he goes ‘this would be a good space to do some comedy, a stage down one end and a bar at the other’. We were always planning on doing something with a bar.
And in this new space, Rhino Room – bar, comedy, and dance club – was born.
It very much started in the same way as Urban Cow offers the opportunity to visual artists. It was always intended to be not only for comedy. We used to do a lot more with bands, and probably a lot more with live music, theatre, poetry; all the performing arts. It’s fallen away a little bit. We do the odd theatre show still. At the time [of the opening], it was very much designed to be a bit like the old Fringe Club used to be, years ago. And I guess we were pretty lucky in the year we opened there was no Fringe Club so we sort of became the demi-Fringe Club, so all the artists would come along just to do snippets of their shows.
So following on from that, how do you find the artistic scene in Adelaide? Is it competitive?
Comedy is amazing! I mean, it’s funny because you get the local comics who are often bagging the local scene and if you travel around Australia, the scene in Adelaide is probably only second to Melbourne. I mean we have the lowest population in Australia besides Hobart and the Northern Territory, but we bat well above our average for comedy. If you look at the winners of the Triple J Royal Comedy over the last 20 years, and look at how many South Australians have either been winner or runner up I think you will find the average, compared to how many other states are involved, is very high.
It does sort of come and go, and it is tough to survive when you don’t have a huge population. But you go back a couple of years and we were getting comments from famous interstate comedians like Will Anderson and Arj Barker who likened the scene we had in Adelaide to Sydney in the early 90s; which was the prime scene in Australia. And look, I don’t take credit for that either: Justin Hamilton is the one who got it all started here. He took Rhino Room a long way and gave us the credibility we’ve got by getting in all these people he knew from around the place. But as far as comedy goes, it’s still really unrecognised [in Adelaide]. The fact that we don’t have a comedy festival here is quite bizarre, so I think we are doing well. But I don’t think a lot of young comics realise how good the scene is in Adelaide.
And how does this compare for Visual Arts?
In the Visual Arts scene, look, I think we are still doing ok. Unfortunately, not having a contemporary gallery here in South Australia has seen us go backwards a lot over the years. Having said that, I think we still do some amazing stuff. You know SALA [South Australian Living Arts Festival] is a great visual arts festival. I think there are some really good things going on, but I also think some people have just become complacent [in how much they support the arts].
What about the music scene?
The music scene. We’ve got WOMAD; which is incredible. It’s a world-wide recognised festival. I think probably people don’t realise how good WOMAD is. I don’t think the State Government even realises how good it is because they put it amongst the other festivals. WOMAD needs to be given its own weekend, allowed to stand alone and really shine.
It could be the world-recognised event that it is, but it just needs to come away from the Festival of Arts, and the Fringe. As far as other music, like rock bands and other emerging individual performers, we clearly still produce good bands and performers [such as Sia and the Hilltop Hoods]. But if you want to go out at night and catch a good local band, it’s hard. I was far more into music than comedy, but I’ve sort of been lead down [the comedy] track now. With my love of live music, I would still love to do a lot more of that as well, but it’s just one of those things that will come with time.
Do you have an ethos? And how does that effect the vibe and the energy of your businesses?
We always try and maintain our ethos of promoting South Australia, so that started with Urban Cow promoting visual art in South Australia.
So this was always part of the vision?
Oh yeah. Always. At times, or even in the early days, we used to get bombarded by other artists from other states and we probably got more kudos back then in some ways – even the tourist markets would say, ‘I wish we had something like this is the Eastern States’. In the early days, it was partly an economic decision as well because people are very parochial in South Australia, so by keeping it purely South Australian it did give us that edge. And similarly with the Rhino Room; we have always kept an eye on that. Craig Egen [who runs Adelaide Comedy] and I talk about it, and booking Fringe acts there provides opportunities for the locals to have spots on the side, even though it is generally interstate or overseas comedians that we feature. So when he books the late shows, there’s always locals that put in there as well. With the Howling Owl it’s always been to promote South Australia.
Our beer and wine list is purely South Australian, on our gin list we have 130-odd gins and 30% of them are South Australian, so that in itself is pretty amazing. The Howling Owl has got so much food because it’s all local produce that we get in and just plate up. It’s not like we do anything ultra-special with that. With the gin we have all the different garnishes and cocktails, and we create these tasting boards and we also allow people to build their own tasting boards together. These things are just a bit of fun. It’s not just like pouring a drink; that side of things provides its own entertainment as well. It was always set out to promote South Australian food and wine and produce.
So that’s been our ethos, and if that then translates to the vibe we want to create, I guess it is just about bringing in people who have a passion; not only for South Australia, but a passion for the industry. The people [whether it be the employees or the performers] have a passion for music and comedy at Rhino Room, people who work at Urban Cow have passion for the arts, people who work in the Howling Owl, they have a passion for what they do with gin. That’s always been our forte if you like: hiring the right people who create the vibe. Very much based around the people.
Yes, the people! So this is very important then?
“Oh very much. I think my ability has probably not been in the arts itself, but in bringing in people who love the arts. Bringing in the right people, and not just having a passion is one thing, but being able to convey that passion and, I don’t know, be a welcoming person who you can get the love of the particular industry across.”
Now the names of your venues…they are quirky! How did you come up with them? Was it just in the moment?
Pretty much! The first one was funny because my first wife from 25 years ago, who started Urban Cow with me along with a couple of other artists, just threw the name around and it sort of stuck after. We had all these older ladies come in and say ‘I know why it’s called [Urban Cow] because you are taking stuff from nature and turning it into city things, you know Urban Cow’, and you are just like, ‘whatever!’ In some ways, Urban Cow was a tricky one because people often thought the artwork revolved around cows. Then I guess because Urban Cow was such a popular name, then Rhino Room came out and stuck as well. Then when me and my wife, Rachel, were up in Byron Bay, we were sitting trying to come up with a name for the Howling Owl, and we were actually sitting in a bar called ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’, so that’s where that one came from. The fact that Howl and Owl had the same sound, and that owls don’t howl but the word owl was in howl – we just thought it had a really nice ring to it. And we actually have another little bar we are opening underneath Rhino Room in the basement. We used it a bit during the Fringe, but a bit later in the year we will open it as a bar in its own right, as well that will more promote craft beer and that kind of thing. That will be called ‘Drama Lama’; to keep with the animal names. Once we started the animal theme, we thought we had better stick to it.
I spent a Saturday evening at the Howling Owl: the atmosphere was warm, and there was a real authenticity in regards to the food and beverages, and from the employees who were clearly enthusiastic about their work. Let me also say that the gin and tonic went down like water. I also attended a ‘One Mic Stand’ at the Rhino Room. This is a weekly event where local comedians come together and share their love for comedy. What a hoot it was! It is undeniable that these venues shed light on some uniquely wonderful pockets in Adelaide. And there is no way of excluding the Urban Cow Studio: it was riddled with precious South Australian artwork! I highly recommend it as a delightful location to take in the works of Adelaide, and as a place to buy yourselves a little something from the Urban Cow Shop!