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Indepth Arts News:

"Toronto Comic Jam: Curated by Dave Howard"
2004-01-24 until 2004-02-28
Toronto, ON, CA Canada

offthemapgallery presents the Toronto Comic Jam. Within the mandate of the gallery, this comic jam will be experimenting with differences in the comic jam art practice. They are using the gallery venue to explore scale, colour, and the impact of a different mix of participators on comic making. It is the active narrative process of comics that is being exhibited. JAMS will be held each Saturday from 2-5pm from Jan.24-Feb.28,2004. This is a participatory, interactive exhibition - visitors are asked to drop in at the jams and during the exhibition hours, have fun, and draw something.

Dave Howard founded The Toronto Comic Jam in November 1996 as a safe haven for the alternative comics community -- a place where artists could meet, exchange ideas, and find moral support, using comics as a basis for social interaction. Inspired by Rupert Bottenberg's comic jams in Montreal, regularly-held monthly comic jams in Toronto have helped to build a sense of community and local history around this often underappreciated art form.

A "comic jam" is a constraint-based exercise reminiscent of Raymond Queneau's Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature) and its subsequent comics arm, Oubapo (Workshop for Potential Comics). Participants take turns drawing consecutive panels, composing spontaneous, collaborative stories. In the process, comics become a vehicle to explore narrative, a template for self-expression, and a form of social exchange - and participants get caught up in the sheer joy of drawing. Finished pages are put on the wall for all to see.

"In social situations, many artists find themselves doodling in notebooks and drawing on napkins," says Howard. "These people find the comic jam to be a wonderful inversion - everybody's drawing. In fact, to not draw is an anomaly."

Toronto artist and illustrator Ruth Tait says of the jam process, "I believe that we understand each other best through the stories we are able to exchange with each other. If we can record these stories in an inventive and engaging way, then we may be able to connect to others and impart our views, our knowledge and experience."

Howard feels the comic is a medium in which anyone and everyone can participate, and that this is part of its power. At the comic jam, experienced artists are challenged to expand themselves, given the different requirements of each jam page, while people new to the medium can discover the wealth of graphic language they may not realize they already possess.

Tables, chairs and art supplies will be set up in the gallery. Everyone is invited to participate in producing comic pages. Works created will be displayed on the wall, and may be taken down by anyone at any time during the show for new, spontaneous additions. As well, Howard's seven-year collection of monthly Toronto Comic Jam zines will be available for the public's perusal.

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