Live sketching re:publica

Tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts: all familiar ways to document re:publica experiences. But over the last 3 years, one group of artists have found a more creative way to capture the spirit of re:publica: live comics.

Jeff Chi, Tim Gaedke and Johannes Kretzschmar are three webcomic artists based in Germany. In 2014, happenstance resulted in all three being present at that year's re:publica, and, as Kretzschmar noted, as soon as you put a group of such artists in the same space, there will inevitably emerge online illustrations to document this occurrence. The results were shared by the group on Twitter over the length of the conference.

Delighted by their creativity, we invited the group back in 2015, and they again dutifully sketched comics throughout the event, providing a helpful “re:publica bingo” for attendees to play, sharing their impressions of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' keynote speech, and documenting the search for the holy grail at tech conferences: an unused power outlet.

The trio will return to re:publica once again this May. We caught up with them recently to learn more about how this endeavour started and what they have planned for #rpTEN.

How did you first come up with the idea to illustrate your experiences at the re:publica?

Tim: I wanted to attend re:publica but didn't have a ticket. So I reached out on Twitter and asked is someone would donate one and, in return, I would document the conference in comic form. No one responded so, instead, I began documenting the event through little comics from my couch. Three or four of these strips later, Microsoft got in touch. They said they had put me on the guest list and asked if I would continue to sketch #rp. Said and done.

Jojo: The live drawing was a singularity crossing the event horizon, which emanated from Tim's and Jess's spontaneous invitation in 2014. When at least three web comic artists come together in the space-time continuum, uploading to the internet becomes inevitable. That's just the way it is!

[caption]Categorizing re:publica visitors[/caption] What aspects are you trying to capture? Why "live-draw" coverage of the conference rather than live-tweeting it, for example?

Jeff: First of all, it’s easier to stand out with drawings than with tweets. I think the aspects we like to capture differ between the three of us because we all have different involvements in the IT and web scene. I’m a web designer and regular conference visitor but still more focused on the creative side of it all, so what I find mostly funny and interesting is “what all those weird but kind humans are passionate about but outsiders most of the time won’t understand”.

Tim: In my comics, I try to capture the all the different people and interactions, which occur when lots of nerds are gathered in one space. Why drawings? I'm better with the pen better than the keyboard. Many situations are better summed up in an image than in 140 characters.

Jojo: Through our drawings, we move in a narrative and comedic space not accessible through tweets, Instagram pics or Snapchat-snaps (is that the right noun?).

What are some personal re:publica highlights for you?

Jeff: My highlights are always the small details that one will only notice when going around the fairground in a slower tempo. Last year we found a little mobile home at the makerspace and decided to sell some comics out of its window. When the amazing people who built this thing arrived, they told us that this project was free for everyone to use, which was so funny because that was what we already did without explanation. It really captured the spirit of the makerspace, or as we called it, the haunting “Macher-Geist”.

Tim: Meeting tons of like-minded people: makers, creatives, artists of all stripes. Free beer. When you're in need of a recording device, post it on Twitter and someone immediately has your back and helps you out.

Jojo: My personal highlight was definitely the Sweetup – for ginger liquorice reasons. 

Comics Credit: Tim Gaedke and Johannes Kretzschmar