Monday, June 09, 2008

Alternate (Reality) Lifestyles

Passion by Kensuke Okabayashi

Wow, the action just never stops. After returning home from Esalen and blogging my brains out on Saturday, I hit the MoCCA Art Festival in Manhattan on Sunday. It was an electrifying experience- if you're wondering where the creative excitement and energy is today, it's there. I'd gone just two years ago and found very little of interest, but this year there was an army of great artists on hand doing truly visionary work. The missus was stunned- she was definitely among her people. I was amazed at the passion on both sides of the table. Standard comic conventions feel more and more perfunctory these days; aging fanboys trying to chase a fast-receding childhood dream, and staring at mass-produced goods you can get anywhere on the web at anytime. It's like a junkie chasing the feeling of that first hit.

At MoCCA you had homemade comics, hand-made t-shirts and toys and made-to-order graphic novels of a level of quality I've never seen in the Indy/Art comix world, at least on this scale. You also had a lot of young people, a lot of hipsters and a lot of women- all things in very short supply in all-comic cons like Big Apple (which also ran this weekend).

The Secret Language of Women (click to enlarge) by Neil Swaab

Of course, I feel alien and disconnected everywhere I go, and this was no different. But I see it as my role to observe these countercultures inside from the outside- knowing them well, but not being part of them. It's the only way you can really see the whole picture. I added in Esalen to my counterculture observation schedule, will be hitting the Renaissance Faire on Father's Day and will wrap it up for the year at Dragon*Con. Even if I feel like an outsider at all these gatherings I do get a buzz off of the energy of people trying to construct their own reality. Which is exactly what countercultures and subcultures are about. And the more committed to this alternate reality the people are, the more I buzz off of it.

There are limits to this, of course. If I found myself hanging around with a bunch of "vampires" or "witches," I think all the conviction in the world couldn't stop my natural cringe instinct from kicking into overdrive. The Renaissance Faire is tough enough with all of the well-fed pagan polyamorists showing off their inept English accents, but my daughter really enjoys it, and it's kind of a tradition. It beats going to the pool and seeing all the Ritalin-addicted housewives show off the latest in bulimia.

Dead Little Princes by Kiki Jones

Now that my own need to somehow fit into these subcultures has been stifled, I feel very free. I spread a lot of money around today, mostly in small doses, because I know what it's like to sit on that side of the table and hope that people will love you. It really makes a huge difference if someone comes by and drops a buck or two down for your ashcan or your mini. I was so stunned to see such enthusiasm and talent my only regret was that I couldn't do more. These people are trying to create a cultural space that is every bit an alternate reality. And since the mainstream culture has become so toxic and withered, I am always grateful for people who are working to resist that, especially when their talent matches their enthusiasm.

Mila and the Prince of Space by Evan G Palmer

Of course, I'd like to see this culture get a good dose of the esoteric, but maybe that would ruin it. The Symbols seem to find a way to express themselves and it's always better when the conduits aren't screwing it up with their dopey ego noise. Maybe Kirby shows us an empty vessel can carry the most magic.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Most artists tend to live very tough lives and are seldom recognized. In many ways it’s a thankless existence but artists continue creating because they absolutely have to.

    The world is a better place because of their passion and perseverance. So, like you, I try to show my appreciation for these very special individuals as much as possible.

    Which reminds me…Your wife's art is amazing! You two are quite the talented pair.



  2. I always found some things unnerving about Renaissance festivals - at least the one where I've worked for 2 years looks more like historical revisionism. The single most important aspect of Renaissance community life - the church - is notably absent, in favor of 'pagan' quasi-faiths which were in fact driven underground long before the Renaissance came about.

  3. Sharing discoveries is what the Secret Sun is all about, D!

    And Magnus- maybe Christians should create their own Ren-fairs.