Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh, Viñetazo

Last weekend I shuffled off to Córdoba for the Viñetazo, a three-day comics conference. To be perfectly honest, my experience was unfulfilling. Part of that was my fault, but the structure of the conference is also to blame.

First of all, I suck at travelling. I went by myself and my pre-trip planning consisted of buying a ticket and finding a place to stay. An “alternative” tour book I once read endorsed going blindly into a city or country as a legitimate method of travelling, but my lack of preparation was not based on a philosophy. I just figured I would figure the city out when I arrived. And I did, by wandering around aimlessly instead of going to museums. I was also lonely, a feeling I thought I had once removed along with shame and optimism. The Historietas Reales gang came, but barely attended the talks, so I spent most of the conference alone. Also, I think I was in a really bad mood.

The Capilla del Buen Pastor, with drawings by Chanti

But not all of the blame can fall on my poor insight. The Viñetazo had one major problem--space. A conference can have amazing speakers and great exhibitions, but if the space isn’t well thought out, it falls apart. First of all, the conference was spread across town. The main presentations were held in the Capilla del Buen Pastor, a former cathedral, and the comics stands were placed blocks away at a book fair. People are lazy and if you have to walk 20 minutes to get between places, you probably won’t go. The vendors experienced that through lack of foot traffic. To add insult to injury, the comics stands were hidden in a corner and up three flights of dangerous stairs.* So, not only do you have to walk 20 minutes, but then you have to climb steep steps? According to Andrés Accorsi, author of the blog 365 Comics por Año, the organizers quickly realized they had made a mistake and tried to make it up to the stand owners. How long was it before the vendors realized there was no traffic or customers? Like, two minutes into the conference? The dangers of dividing up a conference are no secret and have been experienced before. It’s not a new phenomenon. There were very similar complaints about Viñetas Sueltas and Crack Bang Boom. And it’s not as if there wasn’t space in the Capilla. There were stands that sold paper and Truco cards with sports caricatures. A horrible waste of space.

The vendors stands. I quoted Kung Fu Panda endlessly while talking about them:
"My old enemy...stairs!"

Maybe these gross errors would have gone unnoticed if I had attended only one day of the conference. But I was there for all three and it really annoyed me. And it pissed me off as an economist as well. It might have been catastrophic for the vendors. Some of the stands were run by kids selling fanzines or publishing companies from Córdoba, but what about the vendors from Buenos Aires? An unsuccessful event might prove financially damaging for a vendor if he or she is unable to break even or ends up with a loss.

So, I bitched for a bit about space. What I wrote was harsh, but true. Maybe I’ve only been studying the comics world for seven months, but I’ve been talking to people and going to events. I do not claim to be an expert, but I know what works and what doesn’t. Although I have set this post up to reflect a problem in the Viñetazo, I do not think it was a failure. Most of the talks I attended were successes and my experiences meeting comics artists and writers were fantastic. But that is for the next post.

*The gates surrounding the stairs had a sign warning people to be cautious while climbing.

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