Autoptic: "We tried to make this so an average person would come in and see cool shit"
Fans headed to Autoptic on Sunday may get a bonus piece of performance art to go along with the comics, posters, and zines on view. When asked if he's putting out anything new for the festival, curator Zak Sally laughs and says, "Yeah, I'm premiering me losing my mind."
Though he's joking (hopefully), preparing for an event like Autoptic is often a mad-dash to the finish line. Everyone involved is currently in the midst of preparing for the event in one way or another. Autoptic features more than 100 artists, small presses, and independent record labels from around the world, celebrating alternative comics, animation, and independent art in general.
"We're really trying to expand the limits of what comics are and how they combine with other art forms," says Anders Nilsen, a curator and exhibitor whose graphic novel Big Questions was named one of the 100 best books of 2011 by The New York Times.
The headlining guest is Jaime Hernandez, creator of the groundbreaking series Love and Rockets. He's also the subject of a current MCAD exhibition highlighting his influential punk/Archie-style and groundbreaking storytelling (he's giving at talk at the MCAD gallery 6 p.m. Friday night).
Though Hernandez and other bright lights in the alternative comics world are the festival's main draw, there's a lot more to it than works on paper. Doomtree will be among the record labels presenting, and the festival's animators will be featured in a show at 7 p.m. Saturday at Open Eye theater.
Lilli Carré, a filmmaker and cartoonist whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, is coordinating and headlining the screening, called "EYEWORKS/SALTWATER WEATHER."
"She has a playful perspective," Nilsen says of Carré, "but is also really smart and funny."
A contingent of French and Belgian authors and artists will also be in attendance, continuing the experimental comics residency PFC, a.k.a. Pierre Feuille Ciseaux (rock, paper, scissors in English). It's the fourth iteration of the week-long collaborative residency, which has been held in France for the last three years.
Sally's personal history in the world of comics makes it easy to see where this multi-genre, international, everything-at-once ethos comes from. The former Low bassist first published comics on a copy machine when he was 13.
So when Sally was planning Autoptic as a follow-up to the Minneapolis Indy Xpo, an annual comics- and zine-focused show that ran in 2010 and 2011 at the Soap Factory, he wanted to reflect this reality of alternative culture.
"The earlier iteration felt like a niche -- a niche that we all loved and participated in, but still a niche," he says. "We tried to make this so an average person would come in and see cool shit. That's what the whole umbrella is of alternative culture. You make these distinctions -- I like music, I like posters, I like comics -- but they aren't even true. People who like comics also like music right? It's just natural."
At this point, it's clear what Autoptic is, but one major question remains: How the hell do you pronounce it? The international phonetic alphabet spelling of autoptic -- an adjective meaning "seen with one's own eyes" -- is \(ˈ)ȯ¦täptik\. However, Caitlin Skaalrud, a curator for the show and the mind behind talk weird press, has a simpler explanation.
"It's pronounced like Hot Topic," she says, "but aw - topic."
Skaalrud has four books out through the press, with a new release, Houses of Holy, due for Sunday's exhibition. She was stapling books, which use a polyester printing plate as a cover, as we spoke. Houses chronicles a metaphoric and poetic journey through a darkened and mysterious house.
"You open up the doors, and there's a secret inside," she says.
Caitlin Skaalrud Houses of the Holy
The book makes use of what Neil Gaiman calls "night logic." "Day logic would be something that makes sense and is rational and linear," Skaalrud explains, "and night logic is dreamy and dark and doesn't really make sense." She expects the book to eventually be part of a larger series.