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S. Lynette Bondarchuk: ESPA

james hörner

s. Lynette Bondarchuk is the executive director of the Edmonton Small Press Association [ESPA], an organization which acts as a central studio for small press producers and also keeps members and the public-at-large up to date on small-press action, both in Canada and beyond.

The ESPA has a resource library and small press archive, and in addition to encouraging all small press producers to help the ESPA maintain the archive by donating their projects, they also stage an annual small press fair which features the collection, thereby encouraging the public to support a different type of libarary!

Their mission statement is "To encourage and support the creation and dissemination of Canadian Independent Small Press and Contemporary Art", but the ESPA tries to actively support producers from around the world as well.

cancon
so what got you into small presses, zines, contemporary art, and all that?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Just circumstance, really. As a small kid I was exposed to Crumb and Freak Bros. comics by my much older stoner cousins (much to the chagrin of the adults, I might add), and after getting over my initial 'shock' (ie - "Ooh! Dope is bad! Boobs are bad! That's gross!"), I found myself secretly attracted to the adult themes...it was definitely an underground education, and I probably owe much of my current life to it (be that a good thing or a bad thing, I dunno).

Much later (in my mid teens), I started reading the Hernandez Bros. "Love & Rockets" and Peter Bagge's "Neat Stuff" and I was hooked on 'contemporary' alternative comics. I was first exposed to zines while living in Montreal in the late 80's and the interest continued to grow with every new exposure.

cancon
what zines/presses do you find yourself most drawn to these days?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
That's a hard question to answer! I've always been attracted to the D.I.Y. photocopied rant-zines, but I have to admit I tend to admire the zines that pay a bit more attention to production quaility—not because I think they're 'better' per se, but because it's much harder (ie- financially speaking) to produce a colour, quality zine, *especially* if done independently. Good examples of this are Joe Gravel (Scarborough), who does "NOOSH", and Louis Rémillard (Quebec) who's a great comic artist—unfortunately I can't read them very well because my french sucks.

That said, I'm going to contradict myself now: Some of my all-time faves happen to be photocopied. In Canada, I think Robert Pasternak (from Winnipeg) is definitely one of the most creative producers—he makes mini-micro zines and flip-books that are not only gorgeous to look at but also definitely unlike most others. There's also a guy (from Calgary, I think—I actually don't know who does them), who makes one-page zines that have to be cut and folded and when put together stand up on their own as little 3-D masterpieces (I think so, anyway). I've also recently been acquainted with Owen Plummer's "Rubber Popsicle Factory" (from Vancouver), who does hilarious little art zines which such themes as "Mr. T" (complete with Mr.T puzzle piece and of course, a popsicle stick), and there's also Edmonton's "Paper Prostitutes" who put out "Metaforeplay", a poem wrapped around a condom, and "Prozaic", poems in pill bottles.

I could go on forever about the great zines we get in. I love zines. They inspire me.

cancon
in the summer of 2000 espa is trying to get together a huge exhibition of the latest comic art and small-press stuff, called "Subtitles: Art of the Underground"- can you tell us a little more about this?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
My pleasure. I've personally been working on this exhibit for over a year already—it's going to be huge. In a nutshell, there will be a gallery exhibition of original comic art; an extensive collection of zines and small press projects; a minor-friendly component called "Erasure" which is literally a collection of very cool erasers; we're hoping to install computers so the public can browse e-zines and comic webpages; there's also going to be a collection of cool music boxes built by Femke VanDelft (from Fernie, B.C.) called "Revenge of the Dysney Gals", which play upon the bullshit patriarchy of traditional fairy tales (those are my words, by the way, not hers), and Femke also has some truly beautiful sculptures built out of pencils... What else? Oh yeah, Ottawa's "Chipworks Silicon Gallery" which is a collection of artworks which have been discovered carved into microchips on semi-conductors—very cool stuff, truly an 'underground' phenomena. There's more, but my brain is on overload at the moment. We hope to feature lots of indie bands too.

Anyway, for the original artworks, we have such illuminaries as Howard Cruse (an *amazing* artist and a pioneer of gay comics) as well as Roberta Gregory (Naughty Bits), Trina Robbins (comic 'herstorian'), Peter Bagge (YAY!), Marc Bell (who I think of personally as Canada's comic sweetheart), Joe Gravel, Warren Heise (an amazing local artist), and a ton more (both known and obscure), honestly too numerous to mention in this letter!

cancon
i suppose funding is still a major issue though, eh?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Gah. Don't get me started. Funding avenues are dismal, to say the least. Already the ESPA is *entirely* funded by a handful of us board members (and none of us get paid, by the way), we are badly in debt, and we honestly have no idea if we'll receive any funding through the grants we've applied for. We tried to apply for an AFA Operational Grant (that's Alberta Foundation for the Arts), and they actaully wouldn't even *accept* the application, stating that "My ten year old can do this". It infuriates me, especially seeing some of the usual boring, UNcreative shit that does manage to get funding... Luckily I think that the general elitist attitude of Canadian granting agencies will change...hopefully in my lifetime.

cancon
besides funding, what have been some of the difficulties putting this show together?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
The one main issue besides funding is a general lack of bodies—there's *so* much work to pull this off, and three of us doing it. The other thing would probably be —uh, how to put this tactfully?— artist *flakiness*, meaning that many of the artists we deal with aren't very 'professional' when it comes to paying attention to deadlines and guidelines. It takes twice as much effort on our part to get people organized if they can't (or won't) take the initiative themselves...I'll stop there.

cancon
although canada now has a publication like 'broken pencil' which supports indie culture, how do you feel canadians generally view indie art and publishing?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Well, I think 'Canadians generally' DON'T view indie art and publishing. First, there's so little exposure, and even when there is an opportunity for exposure, the small press community is so fragmented by geography alone that it's really difficult to make any sort of impact. Second, that elitist attitude again. One thing I will say, though, is that when Canadians (or anybody else for that matter) get exposed to small press they usually find it interesting/intriguing, which is definitely a start, definitely a good thing.

cancon
it's interesting to see a group like espa spring up in edmonton - i think we tend to think of indie culture as only coming out of toronto or vancouver for some reason. how supportive has edmonton been towards espa?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Ha ha. Ahem...NOT very supportive at all. Especially considering we live in the 'deep south of Canada', meaning it's Canada's bible-belt, it's redneck, homophobic, and traditional (in a totally unprogressive, unevolutionary way)...and to be fair, I *am* generalizing of course: There are some great artists around these parts but unfortunately most of them have to leave to get recognized.

Right now there's enough support to make us feel like it's not all a waste of time, but I have to be honest and say that if things don't improve, it's unlikely that we'll be around in 2002. A few of us are going personally into debt over the ESPA and there's always burn-out as well. Even if I'm willing to hang on and keep trying it's unreasonable for me to expect the others to do so. Gloom and doom aside, we have a brand new board with a fair bit of energy and will, so at least I can say that we're not going down without a fight!

cancon
how can folks get in contact with espa?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Call us at (780) 434-9236, or write to us at P.O. Box 75086, Ritchie Postal Outlet, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 0V4 (Canada). We use email too, but some recent evil computer problems have gotten us a bit (okay, a *lot*) behind... Anyway, try us at [espa_@hotmail.com] or [jonno@compusmart.ab.ca], but please be patient and try again if we haven't responded within two weeks.

cancon
so far this has been rather impersonal! let's remedy that with some probing questions. what do you eat for breakfast?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Uh, I rarely eat breakfast, so I'd have to say 'coffee and a smoke' (a rather unhealthy disposition I will attempt to eradicate in the probably-distant future)

cancon
what's the last movie you saw, and what did you think of it?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Mm...do you mean last 'newly released' movie, or *any* movie? The last movie I watched was (Pink Floyd's) The Wall two nights ago...I love The Wall. People who don't like The Wall are dumbasses. I rarely go to theatres (I'm too broke), but on video I've recently seen "Run Lola Run" (thought it was great), and "The Matrix" (thought that was great too, Keanu Reeves aside). Last week I saw "They Call Me Trinity" for the first time. I usually do NOT like westerns (even the spaghetti sort) but Trinity is a scream...definitely a thumb up.

cancon
if you could spend a week anywhere in canada, all expenses paid, where would you go?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
What's with all the hard questions??? Either the Maritimes because the eastern provinces are the only ones I'm not too familiar with, or Montréal (see old friends and get really drunk at Foufounes), or the Arctic/N.W.T. (I lived there when I was a kid and I'm curious and sentimental to see how it's changed).

cancon
who do you consider to be a great, under-rated canadian artist?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Warren Heise. Marc Bell. Julie Doucet. Chester Brown. Robert Pasternak. Femke Van Delft. Many others, actually.

cancon
what's something you've been hoping i'd ask, but didn't?

S. Lynette Bondarchuk
Mm. How about "Do you see your extreme bitterness and resentment towards elitist artists and arts organizations waning any time in the near future?" My answer is "Nope. Fuck 'em."

That's it for me! Thanks again guys for the opportunity to get the word out about small press. I hereby wish good karma on you for always.


james hörner edits canadian content

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