Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Wagga Wagga Weekend



The day was Friday May 15th. We had just finished our first round of finals at AGSM and been rewarded with two weeks of vacation. I came across an email newsletter from the Australian Graphic Design Association that mentioned the Australian International Animation Festival. In an ostentatious display of abject freedom I woke up Saturday morning, hopped in a borrowed car, and hit the road for Wagga Wagga. I say that because when I am completely free I can't help but fly by the seat of my pants. My utter enjoyment comes in the face of the sheer terror this would present to a normal person with any inkling of obligations and a schedule. I am in a rare position of personal freedom and I wear it like the badge it is; good and bad. Good because free is fun, but bad because I feel the world isn't built by capricious people. Or maybe it can be. I'm not sure yet but I'm determined to find out.



With a bag packed just shy of a cartoon character's handkerchief at the end of a stick, I was off toward Wagga Wagga and the Animation Festival. When I got there I was struck by the professional charm of the receptionist at the Townhouse International where I had made my reservation. After she had made quite an impression on me with her interest in the festival and armed with her positive directions, I found the FORUM 6 Cinema and made my entrance into the overwhelming interconnection among undergrad animation students just in time to catch the International Program #2 part of the schedule. There was a short break and then the racy part of the schedule commenced with the Late Night Bizarre. The program ended with the Superjail pilot from Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. It is HILARIOUSLY INAPPROPRIATE.

After the screenings I had an awesome conversation with an animator from Blue Tongue in Melbourne about a project he's working on. I really enjoyed listening to him, which corresponds to this quote I read from the Dalai Lama and reminded me of someone "speciar" back in the States:

"It is through listening that your mind will turn with faith and devotion, and you will be able to cultivate joy within your mind and make your mind stable. It is through listening that you will be able to cultivate wisdom and be able to remove ignorance. Therefore , it is worthwhile to engage in listening even if it costs your life.
Listening is like a torch that dispels the darkness of ignorance. And if you are able to make your mental continuum wealthy through listening, no one can steal that wealth. It is supreme wealth."



Sunday started with another conversation at the reception desk. I took my new friend's advice and went to the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and National Art Glass Gallery, pictured above. I was thoroughly impressed, and inspired to find more inspiration. I went and bought a dozen CD's. Rather than going right back to the Animation Festival, I rebelled from my own rebellion and spent that sunny afternoon driving around town in search of the highest point on a nearby hillside. I wanted to soak up the full view of this little town that had already made quite an impression on me, not to mention the second conversation I had with the Townhouse receptionist. It turns out she's a Psychology student who recently discovered she can draw. I will not stop until she is fully encouraged! I couldn't help but invite her to the evening screenings that night. I drove up Lord Baden Powell Drive past the Museum of the Riverina and found the view I was looking for.



I motored down the hill listening to the Greatest Hits of Arrested Development and absolutely loving it. I drove past the train station where I know I'll be arriving again someday soon. By the time I made it back to my obligation at the festival I caught the end of the Animation 103 and 104 Seminars from the People's Republic of Animation in Adelaide and Jonathan Nix of Cartwheel Partners based in Sydney. The organizers of the festival agreed that these two were the best presenters ever, and I felt lucky to meet them.

I don't have any pictures to prove it, but the night took an amazing turn when I got a call towards the end of International Program #3 from none other than the Townhouse receptionist, whose identity I continue to protect with my utmost respect and admiration. We decided to have a quick dinner before returning for the Digital Panorama part of the program. We ended up having a number of drinks after dinner at the All Seasons Pavilion, and I enjoyed a wonderful night of wholesome company and honest conversation. We caught the rest of the Animation gang at their last round of drinks and I promised to see them again next year.



I have to say my departure on Monday was hesitant. My mind was playing with all sorts of ideas of settling down in Wagga Wagga, but I had to make it back to Sydney for the Sustainability Showcase at UNSW, and to feed the fish of my dear friend at AGSM. On the way down I traveled the Hume Highway, so on my return I chose to head north through the Blue Mountains back to Sydney. I was continuously impressed with the level of culture in the small cities like Cowra, population 13,100, and Cootamundra, home of the Milestone Sculpture pictured above. In the United States, a city of 13,000 in the middle of nowhere echoes the film Deliverance, while in Australia I was completely blown away with the level of culture I experienced.

As the sun set on my Wagga Wagga Weekend, I had gained everything I imagined and much, much more. I imagine the conversations I shared will fuel my actions far into the future... or at least until Session 2 at AGSM once again predominates my vision. We'll see. I owe a special thanks to the owner of my borrowed car. My life would feel much different if I hadn't afforded myself this experience with the resources available. She must be as happy as I am. Reading from the scroll now hanging in my little studio...

"Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

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