Finnish comics @ Oslo Comics Expo & Dongery interview

We spent a weekend at Oslo Comics Expo, a cool little festival organised by the Serieteket comics libary.

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The grand old Finnish lady, Tove Jansson, was a star in here, too.

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Seriefrämjändet’s Mumindalet exhibition showcased a few contemporary works inspired by the Moomin universe. Here’s Henri Gylander…

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…and Mari Ahokoivu.

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Moomin is “Mummi” in Norwegian. Mummi is “grandma” in Finnish.

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“Funny animals” was a department at Serieteket. “Serious animals” was next room.

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OK don’t look now, but there’s a giant guy with a pen right behind you, Sascha Hommer.

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“Viking” and “horror” are keywords here, gathering for Norwegian tastes for fantasy and darkness.

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Kalle Hakkola negotiating sales at our booth. Säihkyturpa, the official Helsinki festival unicorn, delighted bypassers.

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Lene Ask and 16 other artists produced the comics anthology Smuss, with stories about sex. “Sex is everywhere, it is used for selling things, but we wanted to find new approaches to the subject”, says Ask.

Dongery

I met up with two members of the Dongery comics collective, Flu Hartberg and Bendik Kaltenborn. So, what is Dongery?

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Flu Hartberg

“We are a collective of six artists. We also make things such as text, video, music, theatre, happenings etc. But I would say 60% is comics. Comics is definitely the main thing”, tells Hartberg.

Dongery started in the mid-1990s and did their first publication in 1999.

“For a long time we felt like we are the only group of this kind. Later we found similar collectives, such as Finland’s Kutikuti. We realised, oh, we’re not alone in this.”

dongery_silk

Source: Dongery.no

“Everything has just been happening. We didn’t plan anything. Sometimes there is silence, but then something big happens – like the big book we published. We collected together all the stuff from throughout the years.”

The big book.

The big book.

Source: dongery.no

Source: dongery.no

Recently Dongery have had a few major exhibitions, such the office-themed spectacle at Fumetto festival in Luzern, Switzerland. Dongery seems like an inspired and productive bunch. However, the members have busy lives and these days many have families.

“It is difficult to get everyone together in the same place at the same time. I tried arrange a barbeque, but even that wouldn’t work out. In Fumetto everyone was together, which was nice”, says Hartberg.

The group ends up taking turns when it comes leading projects. “One person is always leading and pushing the others to work.”

Bendik Kaltenborn and

Bendik Kaltenborn and Kristoffer Kjølberg.

Several members of Dongery are also involved in organising OCX. They produce events and work with graphic design.

“OCX is getting ever easier to organise. Now we have some more resources, too.”

The festival attracts members of the public to browse comic publications on a nice sunny Saturday. It is still a fairly compact event, attracting Norwegian and international guests from the comics scene to socialise and network.

“We have a philosophy to keep the core of the festival of high quality. But we try to trick the public into coming here and reading comics.”

dongery-just-sayin The artists have slight problem with some media coverage – they find that most often when they are interviewed, they find themselves having to explain again and again what comics is or isn’t. “Can adults also read comics?” “Is comics more than just Donald Duck?”

I recognise the same issues and reoccuring questions across our Nordic borders. And Donald Duck seems to be the biggie in both countries.

“Why are we always having to explain the art form in general to journalists?”, ask Hartberg and Kaltenborn. “Why can’t they just talk about the specific thing? One time when we were on the radio talking about Dongery, there were even these Donald Duck soundbites inserted in the middle of our interview. Quack quack!”

However, the Dongery members have taken on the role of educating the public, media and business people about comics.

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Source: facebook.com/dongerycomics

The collecive has often been present at the Helsinki Comics Festival. “Last year was first time in seven years that I didn’t go to Helsinki”, says Kaltenborn.

“We love the festival. And the Finnish comics scene is our favourite – so much humour and weirdness.”

This year it happens that Dongery has a big exhibition in Oslo at the time of Helsinki Comics Festival, so their attendance to Helsinki is yet uncertain.

“The exhibition came back from Fumetto in a huge box.” The furniture, copy machine and all? “Yes.”

The Dongery exhibition at Fumetto was a failed office.

The Dongery exhibition at Fumetto included a failed office scene.

At this point a third member of the collective, Kristoffer Kjølberg, intervenes. “Can I say something in this interview? I think Dongery is really stupid.”

“This guy is the brain of Dongery”, say the others.

Text and photos: Aino Sutinen

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Aino Sutinen

Aino Sutinen is a comics artist and Press Officer at the Finnish Comics Society.
fili suomen sarjakuvaseura © Finnish Comics Society 2017