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Comics Forum Opportunities

Comics Forum is seeking to appoint three or more individuals to the roles of Articles Editor(s), News Editor(s), and Reviews Editor(s) on the Comics Forum website (www.comicsforum.org). Each of the roles is outlined below:

Articles Editor

The articles editor will:

  • Actively source articles for the Comics Forum website (by attending conferences, staying up to date with developments in comics scholarship, approaching possible contributors)
  • Edit guest articles (with a keen eye for textual organisation, argument, and structure)
  • Be engaged in ongoing communication with guest contributors
  • Format and publish articles on our website (WordPress), liaising with the other website & social media editors

News Editor

The Comics Forum News Review is a monthly roundup of articles relevant to comics scholarship from around the internet, sourced by an established body of international comics scholars from across the continents of Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania (see http://comicsforum.org/category/news-review/ for reference).

The responsibilities of a News Editor include the collating of news reports from a range of international correspondents (these arrive on the last day of a given month), editing these reports into a News Review post, and publishing it on the Comics Forum website on the 4th day of the following month. Secondary to this, the News Editor is responsible for the development of the News Review as and when possible, including sourcing and expanding its pre-existing body of correspondents that feed into the News Review.

Reviews Editor

The reviews editor will:

  • Actively source texts to review and reviewers for the Comics Forum website (by staying up to date with developments in comics scholarship, approaching possible contributors, developing and maintaining good relationships with publishers)
  • Edit reviews (with a keen eye for textual organisation, argument, and structure)
  • Be engaged in ongoing communication with reviewers
  • Format and publish articles on our website (WordPress), liaising with the other website & social media editors

All three roles require:

  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
  • A strong knowledge of English
  • Meticulous proofreading
  • Academic writing skills
  • Deadline driven
  • Knowledge of comics scholarship (and willingness to stay up-to-date)
  • Reasonably tech-savvy (You’ll be working with Word, WordPress, and social media)
  • Strong organisational skills
  • Previous editorial experience is desirable but not essential

All roles are voluntary positions.

To apply for one of these roles, please email your CV (including publications if possible) and a cover letter to comicsforum@hotmail.co.uk. The deadline for applications is the 25th of September.

 

The Bi-Monthly ComFor Update for August 2015 by Lukas R.A. Wilde

It feels a bit like cheating for me to write this column, taking turns for our bi-monthly ComFor updates on German comics scholarship. July and August have been comparably quiet, due to what must be a holiday breeze, but a regular storm of conferences, festivals and events appears to be looming on the horizon. So consider this more of a teaser trailer for September and October – and most of all for the ComFor’s own annual conference on History in Comics – History of Comics in Frankfurt/M. from September 4–6 (more about that later).

First, as a quick follow-up to Laura Oehme’s last column, and the news about the successful funding of a research cooperation between the University of Paderborn and the University of Potsdam on the subject of Hybrid Narrativity: the research group, combining approaches from the cognitive sciences, digital humanities and narratology, remains prominent in the German spotlight. One of the founders, Alexander Dunst, recently gave a lecture on the topic of Reading Comics – Contributions of Empirical Humanities at the University of Göttingen to present some preliminary results already. There have been some discussions of the project from outside academia as well (notably within regular newspaper columns and in online discussion groups), asking for more information about the aims and methods of the project than can be found on the public website of the group. An extensive and very informative (albeit German-language) interview with Dr. Dunst was published on Christian Meiwald’s comics-newsblog Dreimalalles, while Hybrid Narrativity-member Oliver Moisich of Paderborn University composed a short (Geman-language) project introduction for the ComFor. Since it is sometimes compared to (or contrasted with) Bart Beaty, Benjamin Woo and Nick Sousanis’ What Were Comics? by the University of Calgary and Carleton University, the ComFor editorial board followed up with a short interview with Bart Beaty (in English), in which he explains more about the backgrounds of, and possible connections between, both approaches. On a further note, the Hybrid Narrativity group will be organizing a Master Class with renowned media scholar Lev Manovich in Potsdam on September 23, doubtless deepening these discussions.

If you were browsing through German newspapers and magazines last month looking for news on comic books, you were most likely to stumble across the name of Erika Fuchs. On August 1, a museum in her name celebrated its opening in Schwarzenbach an der Saale, and the event was widely covered beyond local press and newspapers. If you are wondering why you have never heard about this artist, the answer is easy: she wasn’t one (at least not in the usual sense). Dr. Erika Fuchs is a bit of a German curiosity: Working as an ingenious and brilliant translator of Carl Barks’ classic Disney comics for many decades, she not only influenced contemporary German language significantly, but actually received recognition for this (which is, not surprisingly, pretty rare within this invisible craft). So it is only fitting that, after many delays, her hometown of Schwarzenbach will finally welcome visitors to the Erika Fuchs Haus – dedicated not only to her life’s work, but also to the art of language in comics in general. And if that isn’t enough for you, it also features a more or less life-size money bath, Uncle Scrooge-style!

In terms of festivals and conventions, I won’t go much into details about the two upcoming German Comic Cons – German Comic Con in Dortmund (December 5/6, 2015) and Comic Con Germany in Stuttgart (June 25/26, 2016) – that were announced recently (if you include other German-speaking countries, the Vienna Comic Con on November 21/22 2015 should be mentioned as well). A growing commercial interest in comics (or rather comic fans) as a viable business resource is certainly noteworthy from an economic and sociological point of view (and also where practices of transmedia storytelling and marketing are involved). However, other upcoming festivals and fairs that have a larger focus on cultural topics might be of more immediate interest to comic studies as an endeavour of humanities.

On September 5, Leipzig opens its Comicgarten mini-festival; the international literature festival Berlin (ilb) invites its guests to participate in its Graphic Novel Day once more (September 12–13). For September 18–20 we are looking forward to the ever-growing Connichi manga festival in Kassel, organized by Animexx. Vienna will be hosting the Vienna Comix 2015 festival on October 3–4, while Hamburg is preparing for the International Graphic Novel Salon on October 10. Despite some major changes in its presentation of comics, the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair (October 14–18) is certainly going to be an important event again, and finally the MMC, the Anime- and Manga-Convention in Berlin, will be held on October 23–25.

While both these festivals and a number of conferences seem right around the corner, some prior academic events also deserve some attention: First and foremost, on July 3/4 the German Kinemathek Berlin invited us to reflect upon the aesthetic, narrative and technological aspects of Storyboarding: Bild – Text – Bewegung (Image – Text – Movement). Within this dialogue between literature and cinema studies, as well as art history, comics emerged as a special nexus point, critically examined by Kalani Michell’s (Frankfurt) presentation on “Petzold’s Comic Storyboard Constructions” and Jens Meinrenken’s (Berlin) investigation of “Sequential Art: The Relationship between Comic, Storyboard and Film.”

We have already mentioned (twice!) the workshop on the Mediality and Materiality of Contemporary Comics, organized by Jan-Noël Thon and myself on behalf of the AG Comicforschung (Comic Studies Board) of the German Society of Media Studies (GfM), so we won’t bother you with details again. However, Stephan Packard and Christian A. Bachmann composed a detailed English workshop report for ZfM online (online Journal of Media Studies) which can be accessed freely. This includes not only the keynote speeches by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (Hertfordshire), Ian Hague (Comics Forum), Karin Kukkonen (Turku), Véronique Sina (Bochum) and Daniel Stein (Siegen), but also 10 additional paper presentations, as well as discussions and recurring questions are covered in some depths – thanks for that!

The next event organized by the AG Comicforschung (this time round by Véronique Sina and Hans-Joachim Backe) will be part of the GfM’s annual conference from September 30 to October 3, 2015. Hosted by the University of Bayreuth, the conference asks for mediatised visions of “Utopia” and the possibilities of societal transformation, comprising an impressive amount of almost 50 panels with hundreds of presentations by scholars from all over the field(s) of media studies. Within that context, the AG Comicforschung brought together Jeanne Cortiel (Bayreuth), Stephan Packard (Freiburg) and Véronique Sina herself, to discuss the relations between (post)apocalyptic and utopian visions in Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead (Cortiel), the transgressions (and semiotic irritations) of what can be considered human in Superior Iron Man (Packard), as well as the subversion of gender-images in Enki Bilal’s dystopic La Trilogie Nikopol (Sina).

Now we finally approach the point I can spread some excitement about the ComFor’s own annual conference with our grand anniversary. As the title History in Comics – History of Comics indicates, organizer Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff and his team at the University of Frankfurt/M. will focus on comics and graphic literature with a double perspective. As the conference’s call for paper’s explains: “One field of interest will consist of the historical topics and subjects, ranging from antiquity to contemporary history, that are depicted in works of sequential art from all over the world and attract the attention of a broad readership […] Another field of interest – closely linked to and in correspondence with the aspects mentioned above – consists of the historicisation of the phenomenon ‘comic’, its contemporary varieties and its readership(s) as well as the analysis of its international developments.” The event, held from September 4 to 6, will be the biggest ComFor conference ever, featuring about 55 presentations (many of them in English) in three parallel tracks; participants include Anne Magnussen (Odense) and artist Barbara Yelin (Irmina). So, come and join us in the centre of Germany to celebrate our anniversary of ComFor conferences, which have certainly come a long way from their first instalment 10 years ago.

In the arena of new publications that we constantly struggle to keep track of in our Monitor column, I’d like to highlight two new releases especially. Firstly, Juliane Blank published her dissertation on Literaturadaptionen im Comic (literature adaptations in comics) with the Christian Bachmann publishing house. Blank draws on the methods and concepts of cinema studies, art history and picture theory, proposing an analytical model which considers the source material and the medial transformation into the realm of comics of equal importance. Speaking of ‘translations’, Nathalie Mälzer edited a Frank & Timme volume on Comics – Übersetzugen und Adaptionen (translations and adaptions). Comprising some of the contributions of last year’s international conference at the University of Hildesheim, the collection sheds (interdisciplinary) light on the interplay of linguistic translation and regionalisation on the one hand and medial transcoding processes on the other. Not a German publication at all, I’d nevertheless like to direct your attention towards Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Jayms Nichols’ special-themed issue of Networking Knowledge: Digital Comics. Out of the six articles focusing specifically on the relationship between comics and digital media two investigations were contributed by ComFor-members: Matthias Bremgartner’s article on the interplay of theatre and digital comics, as well as my own investigation of the difficulty to assess the mediality of [digital] comics.

All things considered, not bad for a summer break fill-in! Enjoy the rest of your holidays, make your way to Frankfurt if you can, and we’ll be back to cover some of it in 60 days!

Lukas R. A. Wilde, M.A., is a doctoral candidate at the Department for Media Studies of Tuebingen University; he is on the editing board of the website of the German Society of Comic Studies (ComFor) and a member of the Comic Studies Board of the German Society for Media Studies (GfM). His focus of interest is on picture theory; media theory; webcomics and digital comics; recent publications: Der Witz der Relationen. Komische Inkongruenz und diagrammatisches Schlussfolgern im Webcomic XKCD (Stuttgart 2012); Was unterscheiden Comic-‘Medien’? In: Closure. Kieler e-Journal für Comicforschung (2014: 1), pp. 25–50; Distinguishing Mediality. The Problem of Identifying Forms and Features of Digital Comics. In: Daniel Merlin Goodbrey / Jayms Nichols (eds.): Digital Comics. A Special-Themed Issue of Networking Knowledge (2015: 8.4), pp. 1–14.

 
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Posted by on 2015/08/25 in ComFor Updates

 

Reading Correspondences through the Virtual Feminist Museum by Dan Smith

In the folded concertina pages of their book Correspondences (2013), artist Bernice Eisenstein and writer Anne Michaels have collaborated to adapt and put to use a multifaceted temporal dimension inherent in the medium of comics. Michaels and Eisenstein explore the potential that comics have to interrupt processes of consumption through phenomenal engagements with image, text, narrative and temporality. (Smith 2013) Correspondences changes through reading, offering new connections and configurations, made possible by the choice of directions in which the book can be read, and the page arrangements chosen by the reader upon any particular visit. The book opens as an accordion, the edge of each page attached to another. Read it this way, it is a poem. Read it a different way to look at Eisenstein’s portraits. When arranged conventionally, they are accompanied by a text on the facing page. As voices in a gallery of conversations, situated in the shadow of the Holocaust, Eisenstein’s portraits show us the faces of connected figures, from Paul Celan to Nelly Sachs, while the fragmented text of the poem sets up associations and relationships across time. There are echoes of the image/text combinations of Eisenstein’s previous graphic novel I was a Child of Holocaust Survivors (2006), which prodded the boundaries of the medium, resisting a more conventional approach to graphic memoir. Miriam Harris describes how Eisenstein illuminated “a vanished world of family members, shtetl culture, and Jewish intellectual inquiry and art, to identify what had been lost.” (2008: 132) Harris points out that “the union of words and images” (2008: 141) enables a reanimating of the dead through yoking together past and present in the corporeal form of the graphic novel. Correspondences performs similarly, but with an even greater sense of corporeal engagement, and moves even further away from standard image/text relations as found in comics.

Like Eisenstein’s I was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, Correspondences is a book that focuses on relationships around a parent, generating a dialogue with absent figures. It is an elegiac tribute to Anne’s late father Isiah Michaels, assembling links of kinship and influence amongst people Isiah never met, but who nevertheless touched his life indirectly. Each was a source of intimate fascination or inspiration for Isiah. At one end of the book, the following instructional statement is offered:

Most of the individuals portrayed in these pages are accompanied by their own words. Sometimes an individual’s words are brought together from more than one source. On occasion, the words of another writer become the voice for the individual portrayed. The pages unfold in a myriad of arrangements, and voices speak not only from the singularity of their souls but one to another, embracing all that has been placed beneath and inside. A layered kinship is formed, a touch across the pages. (Eisenstein and Michaels 2013: n.pag)

The material form of Correspondences as an object generates a looping circularity. Readers are entangled in combinations of image and text, with memory as a thematic core. As a comic, it is a non-linear sequential narrative using text and image, and as Thierry Groensteen suggests when discussing showing and telling as elements within comics narratives, a substantial part of the narration occurs in images and their articulation. (Groensteen 2010: 2) In these potential articulations of images, there is no prioritizing of a chain of events, usurping conventional narrative intelligibility, reflecting the idea that the Holocaust itself demands to be addressed in terms of unintelligibility. (Agamben 1999) Text and image might be read as interruptions as much as sequences, as discussed by Pascal Lefèvre (2010), working together to achieve a building of tensions. Rather than offering unity of the page, image/text configurations can put up barriers. This deviation from habitual reading schemes makes the process more difficult, demanding more of the reader. Lefèvre discusses the possibilities of the book as form, and alternative forms such as the scroll or concertina, the loose bundle in the box, which demand more than the turning of the page, attracting attention and involvement. (2010: 44) Readers become more aware of the materiality of the book he states, but the question of to what end still remains in considering Correspondences.

To address this question, I would like to suggest that the fragments and joinings encountered here can be read as an example of a space within what Griselda Pollock describes as the virtual feminist museum (VFM). Pollock, an art historian and theorist of visual culture, has confronted art history as a space of exclusions and symbolic violence since the 1970s. The VFM is an idea Pollock introduces in her book Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum (2007) and subsequently develops in After-Affects/After-Images: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation in the Virtual Feminist Museum (2013). She introduces the idea of the museum as a feminist tactic through the deployment of the museum’s speciality: “(T)he exhibition as encounter that opens up new critical relations among artworks, and between viewers and artworks, that points to repressed narratives in the histories of art, and continues what I called, in 1999, the feminist project of differencing the canon”. (Pollock 2007, 13, italics in original)

Pollock employs images in Encounters, including reproductions of Antonio Canova’s The Three Graces, a marble sculpture from 1819, which is placed on a page facing four views of the same sculpture, each sold as an individual postcard, bought in the National Gallery of Scotland museum shop. The figures in The Three Graces are described as possessing inexpressive and vacuous expressions upon their faces. (Pollock 2007, 171) Pollock interprets this surface in terms of a contrast between an image of pagan renewal – her reading of The Three Graces – contrasted with a post-Auschwitz context. She asks “Is a “Greco-Christian European tradition of art still possible, or has history, the Holocaust, shattered it?” (Pollock 2007, 171) It is this history that forms the foundation of a virtual exhibition. In constructing this exhibitionary space as a book, Pollock mobilizes images in a way that inadvertently alludes to image/text relations as explored in comics. The text of Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum is interspersed with pages of grey, which feature photographic reproductions, arranged in what can be called panels. There are no panel borders, and sometimes a panel is abutted to the next, but there are gutters. Each page has a numbered illustration reference, and the text is kept clearly separate, but images are deployed as part of a theoretical narrative within the book.

The Three Graces haunts Pollock’s Encounters, prompting a mode of reading that is intended to work against the grain of dominant art historical classificatory systems:

It thus concerns the encounter with sculpture mediated by photographic reproduction with the extended museum setting that leaks beyond the confines of the gallery and academic art history into the imaginary space that I am calling the virtual feminist museum. Here many representations and images jostle in an expanded archive across time and space, prompting other resonances and opening out unexpected pathways through an archive of the image in time and space. (Pollock 2007, p.9)

This museum is virtual not in the sense of a digital or online platform of some kind, but rather virtual in terms of impossibility. This is a space of analysis that could not be realized as an actual museum under current social and cultural conditions. The museum is too tightly bound in circuits of capitalism, particularly through corporate sponsorship. The VFM is offered as a challenge to normalizing protocols and structures found in knowledge systems, mirroring challenges made from postcolonial and other marginalized perspectives.

Pollock’s methodology pays homage to Aby Warburg, who approached images by removing them from art historical narratives that rely upon the idea that an artist’s intentions are explicit in the work that they make. This was a move to separate images from the myth that they are an index of the psychological interiority of individual artists, moving instead into the realm of historical montage. (Pollock 2007, 12) Images could find meaning not through isolation, but connection. This approach developed into his constellation of images known as the Mnemosyne Atlas. (1923-1929) Through placing images alongside one another, similarities and differences could emerge, meanings revealed through strange affinities. The Atlas was envisaged as a series of up to 70 plates, each of which was made up of separate images, reproductions of works, or details of works depicting classical motifs and their apparent reappearance in the Renaissance and in the modern age. These images were to be accompanied by text, a commentary for each assembled plate. He began the project in 1923, but died in 1929 leaving the Atlas unfinished and without a definitive plan or order. What was generated was an archive, comprised as much from gaps and intervals as documentary evidence. Just as his library of 60,000 volumes was categorized by elective affinities, secret intimate connections discerned by Warburg, the Atlas mirrors this as a spectral, phantasmatic science that refutes rational or linear order.

Pollock mobilizes a concept of the archive that resonates with Warburg’s. Her archive is not a comprehensive resource, a depository of fragments for reconstructing the past but rather “a perpetual haunting”. (Pollock 2007: 12) The accumulative effect of Correspondences can be characterized by Pollock’s description. Franz Kafka’s painted likeness in Correspondences is paired with the following lines:

I have never

been here before: my breath comes differently…

It is, after all,

a communication with ghosts. (Eisenstein and Michaels 2013: n.pag)

This could be read as a description of what is taking place across the gathered portraits – all people now dead – and poetic texts of Correspondences. Is this not a space for communicating with ghosts, or for bearing witness to acts of communication taking place between ghosts? These are ghosts communicating with each other through links and connections, but also with us, living in an era that not only has yet to recover from the Holocaust, but that continues to be shaped and defined by oppressive and violent structures of exclusion and marginalization.The Holocaust is situated as one force of violence among others in Correspondences. Following Kafka’s portrait, we encounter the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. She was not Jewish and not a Holocaust victim, but rather a survivor of the Russian revolution, and later the oppression of Stalinism, expanding the singularity and specificity of one catastrophe within a wider sense of historical trauma. Next, a young Albert Einstein gazes skyward, his eyes seemingly unfocused, followed by a portrait of a girl known as Tereska. Her photograph, taken in 1948 in a Polish children’s home, was used on the front page of the Unesco Courier in February 1949. Eisenstein’s depiction of Tereska is paired with a text by Emily Dickinson: “I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you – nobody – too?” (Eisenstein and Michaels 2013: n.pag.) The portraits weave a series of connections in and around the specificity of the Holocaust, but which move outwards, linked by Isaiah Michaels, father of the poet Anne, who himself appears as a portrait.

Both Correspondences and the VFM are speculative and exploratory. The VFM is described in terms of a research laboratory that counters dominant narratives, resisting rather than reproducing assumed frameworks. (Pollock 2007: 11) Correspondences is a crafted gathering of subjects, images and biographies set out as networks and potentially transformative interactions. Pollock’s specific application of the VFM focuses on sexuality, sexual difference and representations of bodies, which, while not the focus of Correspondences, relates to the book through a shared commitment to “the unknown history of women at moments of cultural radicalism and cultural trauma across the twentieth century.” (2007, 11) Although there are familiar men in Correspondences, including Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, Paul Celan, Primo Levi and W.G. Sebald, they are threaded into a space substantially constituted by lesser known women: We encounter Rose Auslander, a poet who knew Celan after the war, and who influenced his writing. We see Charlotte Delbo, who survived Auschwitz, where she was sent for being active in the French Resistance, and went on to write the trilogy Auschwitz and After, completed in 1971. Debora Vogel is partnered with the phrase “White words”, (Eisenstein and Michaels 2013: n.pag) the term used to describe her lyric urban poetry, an approach she argued was brought about by conditions, not choice. The aforementioned Anna Akhmatova and Tereska join this list, as does the poet Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote of the cost of resisting Stalinism. Following Etty Hillesum, who died aged 29 in Auschwitz in 1943, leaving her letters and diaries of her life in Holland, we come across Charlotte Salomon, a figure who although receiving more and more attention in recent years, and probably familiar to many readers of Correspondences, has yet to come to the attention of a broader public. Salomon created the work Leben? Oder Theater?/Life? Or Theatre? between 1941-1943. This was an autobiographical sequence of paintings and text that constituted a graphic memoir. She was deported from her hiding place in the South of France and was gassed to death in Auschwitz with her unborn child. The chain of portraits ends with Nelly Sachs, a poet whose writings evoked the catastrophe of the Holocaust and the persistence of anti-Semitism. She is partnered with the words: “If I only knew on what your last look rested.” (Eisenstein and Michaels 2013: n.pag) Hidden amongst the pages of the text side of the book is a portrait of pacifist, socialist and suffragist Helen Keller, whose books were burned in 1933. In the portrait, her unseeing eyes are painted as if they glow from an inner light. This unexpected placing of Keller reinforces the mutual pollution of image with text, text with image. It helps to unify an overwhelming sense of disorientating fragmentation in our encounter with the artefact.

As a space of the VFM, Correspondences relates to Pollock’s invoking of trauma through the haunting presence of the Holocaust. Trauma, as described by Pollock in After-Affects/After-Images, relates to the piercing of psychological mechanisms that are meant to shield and protect the subject’s psyche. Unlike physical wounds, these piercings are not healed by organic processes. Psychic trauma is lodged as a foreign colonising presence in the subject, oblivious to external models of time. It is unknown and unremembered: “It is the eventless event, unremembered because, being never known, it could not be forgotten. This happening is not in the past, since it knows no release from its perpetual but evaded present.” (Pollock 2013, 2) Pollock describes a move from trauma into a narrative form that “spatializes the subject’s relation to its own place in time as a subject with a history. (2013, 2) It is unknown and unremembered. Absence is addressed through a virtual presence, not by representation but approached through making. Trauma is the other of representation. The purpose of art that engages with trauma is distinct from any task of representation. The knowledge and memory of the writing subject becomes part of a communication exchange. (Pollock 2013: 4) Trauma can be addressed not as event, “but in terms of an encounter with its traces”. (Pollock 2013: 4) This takes on the form of some kind of time and space, a gap of sorts, as well as a form of participating otherness. Both the making of the work and its reading or viewing (or listening etc.) can form a relationship to trauma which actually transforms trauma. The non-sequential encounters of portraits and text across the folded pages of Correspondences translate the Holocaust as a psychic trauma into encounters with traces, performing this sense of participatory otherness. Trauma is not represented in Correspondences as much as it is explored through forms of material and subjective entanglements.

Included within Pollock’s model of the VFM is her reading of the work of Charlotte Salomon, who appears towards the end of Eisenstein’s sequence of portraits. Salomon is approached by Pollock through Walter Benjamin’s desire to visualize structural aspects of memory: “I have long, indeed for years, played with the idea of setting out the sphere of life – bios – graphically on a map.” (Benjamin cited in Pollock Odysseys 2007: 63) For Pollock, this idea of a life map helps to generate social and historical memory as registers of emplacement, and she uses this idea of life mapping as a frame for reading Salomon’s Leben? Oder Theater?/Life? Or Theatre?. As Ariela Freedman points out, Benjamin’s description of sequence, continuities, moments and discontinuities “could well be of comics that specialise in gaps and discontinuities out of formal necessity.” (2014: 42) The specific form of Correspondences, the demands placed and opportunities offered, emphasizes this sense of gap and discontinuity. Salomon’s work is, Pollock argues, one that remains open, “inviting us to offer our varied frames for reading an event that is at once unified and complex, narrative and conceptual, anamnesiac and repressed.” (Odysseys 2007: 64) The gathering of portraits, textual fragments and poems in Correspondences reproduces this dual sense of anamnesia and repression, encouraging us as readers to address what is forgotten as well as remembered, what is excluded as well as present.

For Pollock, Salomon’s work is framed by an attentiveness to the moment that preceded the catastrophe of living and dying that was the Holocaust. It was a mode of subjective resistance to the events, both life mapping and death mapping, writing the deaths of others, re-staging as well as mapping. As a work that includes a portrait of Charlotte Salomon within it, and that seeks to find ways to continue this negotiation of life and death, Correspondences should be seen as expanding the space of the VFM into the present and future. Correspondences performs Pollocks demand for critical and resistant knowledge systems. The faces in Correspondences speak to us, reminding us of the politicized construction of social subjects: “We are texts, textures, weavings of multiple positionalities and identifications that constitute our mobile placement on the double axes of generations and geographies.” (Pollock 2007, 12) The subjects gathered thus become the production of a new archival form within the virtual feminist museum. It can be read as both material and social event, the format of which, as in Pollock’s reading of Salomon, defies institutional or definitional attempts to place it, rendering the work dislocated in relation to extant orders. This is a sustaining of a refusal “of that attempted assimilation of artworks testifying to and negotiating life and death under the shadow of the Shoah.” (Pollock 2007:148)

The technology of life mapping acts as an alternative order, a graphically rendered form of living through the book as object and event, not as thematic content but as material operation in Correspondences. Eisenstein testing of the boundaries of comics as a medium. Together they have produced a work that is an experimental comic, exploring the possibilities of a printed object, which is simultaneously a book of poetry that has learned from comics. Correspondences echoes Pollock’s evocation not only of Salomon, but also of Warburg’s focus on the image as a mediation of history and subjectivity, of emotion and politics. Like Warburg’s Atlas, Correspondences relies upon modes of assemblage and encounter, which make possible methods of discovery.

Dr Dan Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London, and is the author of Traces of Modernity (2012). His research interests include comics, utopia, science fiction, printed works, art history, outsider art, museology and material culture. Publications include ‘Reading Folk Archive: on the Utopian Dimension of the Artists’ Book’ in Literatures, Libraries, & Archives (2013), ‘Image, Technology and Enchantment – Interview with Marina Warner’ in The Machine and the Ghost: Technology and Spiritualism in Nineteenth to Twenty-First Century Art and Culture (2013), and ‘Architecture, Violence and Sensation: A Visitor’s Guide to Mega-City One’ in Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media, Issue 5, Spring/Summer 2013 (http://intensitiescultmedia.com/issue-5-springsummer-2013/) His drawings can be found at danthatdraws.blogspot.co.uk

References

Agamben, Giorgio. (1999) Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (trans. by Daniel Heller-Roazen), New York: Zone Books.

Eisenstein, Bernice and Michaels, Anne. (2013) Correspondences: A Poem and Portraits, London: Bloomsbury.

Eisenstein, Bernice, I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, New York: Riverhead Books, 2006.

Freedman, Ariela. (2014) ‘Charlotte Salomon, Graphic Artist’, in S.Lightman (ed.) Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews, Jefferson: McFarland, pp38-49.

Groensteen, Thierry. (2010) ‘The Monstrator, the Recitant and the Shadow of the Narrator’, European Comic Art, 3:1, pp.1-21.

Harris, Miriam. (2008) ‘Releasing the Grip of the Ghostly: Bernice Eisenstein’s I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors’, in Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman (eds.), The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, New Brunswick: Rutgers State University, pp.129-143.

Lefèvre, Pascal. (2010) ‘Intertwining Verbal and Visual Elements in Printed Narratives for Adults’, Studies in Comics, 1:1, pp.35-52.

Pollock, Griselda. (2007) ‘Life Mapping: Or, Walter Benjamin and Charlotte Salomon never met’, in G. Pollock (ed.), Conceptual Odysseys: Passages to Cultural Analysis, London and New York: I.B. Tauris, pp.63-88.

Pollock, Griselda. (2007) Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive, London and New York: Routledge.

Pollock, Griselda. (2013) After-Affects/After Images: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation in the Virtual Feminist Museum, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Smith, Dan. (2013) ‘Architecture, Violence and Sensation: A Visitor’s Guide to Mega-City One’, Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media. 5. http://intensitiescultmedia.com/issue-5-springsummer-2013/. Accessed 1 February 2015.

 

 

 
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Posted by on 2015/08/12 in Guest Writers

 

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News Review: July 2015

Americas

Canada

Culture

The “What Were Comics?” research project is a four-year study of the evolution of comic book stylistics over an eighty-year period. Housed at the University of Calgary under the direction of Bart Beaty, Nick Sousanis, and Benjamin Woo; the project organisers are hoping to reach interested undergraduate students from the following countries: Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Vietnam. Students who would like to participate in this project for a period of between twelve and twenty-four weeks during the summer of 2016 can find more details via the link. Link (English, WG)

United States

Research

Santiago García’s, On The Graphic Novel, has been translated by Bruce Campbell and published through University Press of Mississippi. Link (English, WG)

Gustave Doré: Twelve Comic Strips, by David Kunzel, has been published through University Press of Mississippi. Link (English, WG)

The International Journal of Comic Art 17:1 (Spring 2015) has been published. Link (17/07/2015, English, WG)

In connection with the Children’s Literature Association Conference that is being hosted by The Ohio State University in 2016, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum will mount an exhibit on children’s comics, (running from the 4th June to the 30th October 2016). In conjunction with this exhibition, there is a call for papers for a peer-reviewed digital exhibit catalogue of critical essays about children’s comics, past and present. 500 word proposals are due by the 15th October. Link (English, WG)

Asia

Japan

Culture

Kyoto International Manga Museum‘s exhibition: “Ghost tales at the Museum, an Exhibition by Iris de Moüy”, opened on the 27th July and runs until the 31st August. Link (English, JBS)

On the 21st September there will be a talk event with gag manga artist Kei’ichi Tanaka, celebrating the anniversary of legendary gag manga artists Akatsuka Fujio. Link (Japanese, JBS)

The summer edition of this year’s comiket, Comic Market 88, the largest fan convention held in Japan, will be held from the 14th to the 16th August at Tokyo Big Sight. Link (English, JBS)

Two live action films based on hit manga “Attack On Titan” will be released in theaters around Japan on the 1st August and the 19th September. Link (Japanese, JBS)

The exhibition, “MANGA AND WAR”, which opened on the 6th June, is open until the 6th September, held at Kyoto International Manga Museum. Link (English, JBS)

Europe

Belgium

Culture

A museum dedicated to Philippe Geluck’s character, Le Chat, will open in central Brussels by 2019, it has been announced. Link (French, LTa)

France

Business

Publisher Delcourt-Soleil has partnered with digital platform Comixology and plans to released several of its titles in English translation. Link (07/07/2015, French, LTa)

Culture

Albert Uderzo has revealed the title of the next Astérix album along with some other details. The series’ 36th edition, Le Papyrus de César, will be released on the 22nd October and inspired by Julius Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum. Link (25/07/2015, French, LTa)

Germany

Culture

Comic Con Germany is going to take place in Stuttgart on the 25th and 26th June 2016. Link (02/07/2015, German, MdlI)

The Erika-Fuchs-Haus comic museum in Schwarzenbach an der Saale opened on the 1st August. Link (02/07/2015, German, MdlI)

A comic festival named “German Comic Con” (not to be confused with “Comic Con Germany” in Stuttgart) is going to take place in Dortmund on the 5th and 6th December. Link (10/07/2015, German, MdlI)

A reading by Christina Plaka and Barbara Yelin took place in Cologne. Link (13/07/2015, German, MdlI)

“Graphic Novel Day” is going to take place as part of “15. internationales literaturfestival berlin” on the 12th and 13th September; guests include Joann Sfar and Paco Roca. Link (German, MdlI)

A Flix exhibition is shown in Leipzig until the 28th August. Link (30/07/2015, German, MdlI)

Research

The programme of this year’s ComFor conference (Frankfurt, 4th-6th September) has been published. Link (23/07/2015, German, MdlI)

A comics panel is going to take place at the annual GfM Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft conference in Bayreuth on the 3rd October. Link (20/07/2015, German, MdlI)

Portugal

Culture

From the 25th July until the 7th August, the El Pep store & Gallery in LX factory (Lisbon), will be hosting an exhibition of original vignettes of António Gamito. Link (22/07/2015, Portuguese, RR)

From the 24th July until the 26th September, the main gallery of the library, Fernando Piteira Santos, in Amadora, will be hosting an exhibition titled, “Quarto Interior” (Interior Bedroom), by the Portuguese author Francisco Sousa Lobo. Entrance to the exhibition is free. Link (23/07/2015, Portuguese, RR)

On the 18th July was published a comic book titled “Shock-Tributo a Estrompa”. The book is a tribute to the publisher Estrompa (1942-2014) and the fanzine “Shock”. Link (10/07/2015, Portuguese, RR)

Romania

Culture

The Museum of the City of Bucharest is hosting the exhibition, Stories from Bucharest in Comics, which includes representations of the city by 60 artists from 1890 to 2015. The exhibition runs until the 31st August. Link (Romanian, MP)

Spain

Culture

Humoristán, a digital museum of Spanish graphic humor (http://humoristan.org/), has been opened. Link (02/07/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

The comics festival, Viñetas desde o Atlántico, will take place from the 10th to the 11th August in A Coruña. There will be conferences, exhibitions, professional meetings and invited authors such as Ana Miralles, Alfonso Zapico o Chloé Cruchaudet. Link (30/07/2015, Spanish/Galician, EdRC)

Research

Diccionario terminológico de la historieta (Terminological Dictionary of Comics), by Manuel Barrero, has been published by Asociación Cultural Tebeosfera. Link (07/07/2015, Spanish, EdRC)

UK

Job

There is a job listing for the role of Lecturer in Comics, Graphic Novels & Sequential Arts, in the School of Arts & Media at Teesside University. The application closing date is the 9th August. Link (English, WG)

Research

Remembered Reading: Memory, Comics and Post-War Constructions of British Girlhood, by Mel Gibson, has been published through Leuven University Press. Link (English, WG)

Global Manga: “Japanese” Comics without Japan?, edited by Casey Brienza, has been published by Ashgate. Link (English, WG)

The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship has posted a call for papers for a special collection entitled, Brilliant Corners: Approaches to Jazz and Comics. The submission deadline is the 16th January 2016. Link (30/07/2015, English, WG)

Oceania

Australia

Business

Twelve Panels Press, a new publisher of literary comics, announced their first book, The Salty River by Jan Bauer. Book launch on the 27th August at 6:30 PM at Readings Bookstore, Carlton. Link (English, AH)

Culture

Copier Jam! , an exhibition of independent zines and comics curated by Jeremy Staples opened on the 26th July at the Childers Art Space, QLD. Link (English, AH)

Matt Godden’s gallery wall-size graphic novel was displayed between the 3rd and 25th July at the Carton Project Space, Sydney. Link (English, AH)

Women in Comics: a panel conversation with Queenie Chan, Sarah Boxall, Lesley Vamos, Meri Amber and Alex Hammond about how female creators are shaping the comics world, will be held at Kinokuniya Sydney, on the 8th August at 3:30 PM. RSVP in store, by phone: 02 9262 7996 or email: ebd1-sydney@kinokuniya.co.jp

An exhibition of work from the underground comics art anthology Phatsville Comics, which began in Brisbane in 2002, will be on display at West End’s Junky Comics in Brisbane, QLD, starting on the 16th August. Link (English, AH)

Anthony Castle discussed Fly the Colour Fantastica, an anthology of comics by Australian women, on Radio Adelaide on the 11th July. Link (English, AH)

The Sugar City Comic Con will be held in Mackay, QLD on the 29th and 30th August. Link (English, AH)

Comics and culture will be celebrated at the Kathleen Syme Library Comics Fair, between 1 PM and 5:30 PM, on the 8th August 8 in Carlton, VIC. Workshops and performances from Bruce Mutard, Squishface Studios, Silent Army and AdviceComics. Events are free, registration is required. Link (English, AH)

The Zines and Independent Comics Symposium will be held in Brisbane, QLD, on the 22nd and 23rd August. Link (English, AH)

Preliminary voting has opened for The Golden Stapler Awards, Australia’s annual awards for zines and minicomics. Link (English, AH)

*                    *                    *

 News Editor: Will Grady (comicsforumnews@hotmail.co.uk)

Correspondents: Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto (JBS, Japan), Enrique del Rey Cabero (EdRC, Spain), William Grady (WG, UK), Aaron Humphrey (AH, Australia) Martin de la Iglesia (MdlI, Germany), Mihaela Precup (MP, Romania), Renatta Rafaella (RR, Portugal), Lise Tannahill (LTa, Belgium & France).

Click here for News Review correspondent biographies.

Click here to see the News Review archive.

Suggestions for articles to be included in the News Review can be sent to Will Grady at the email address above.

 
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Posted by on 2015/08/04 in News Review

 

Palimpsestic Tales: The drawings of ‘Light Horse Tales of an Afghan War’. How and why these comics came into being by Al Henderson

I am an outsider in the world of comic books. I don’t follow graphic novels, although like most people I have several on my bookshelves. My work as an artist has been with sculpture, not drawing. One of the joys in art are all of the unexpected paths it can open up. I couldn’t have known, for instance, that drawing and storytelling would become a central part of my first solo exhibition. These graphic stories differ in a number of ways from what may typically be thought of as graphic narratives or comics. In addition, I chose a graphic narrative form; it wasn’t a given. This, I think, makes my experience helpful in understanding how we communicate through pictures.

As early as 2006 I began to hear stories of the Canadians who were serving in Afghanistan. Over the next few years this became a big deal in my community. I was out of the army by then but these were my friends, people I had served with before becoming an artist more or less full time. Because of the war in Afghanistan they returned and departed on this new work schedule like slow motion commuters. Ours was a militia regiment, so in addition to being soldiers they were also postal workers, engineers, carpenters and the like.[1] They were deployed singularly or in small groups within larger regular army units resulting in a wide variety of encounters. Some of my friends experienced combat in ditches and alleys while others viewed Afghanistan from hundreds of feet in the air, amid the wreckage of a suicide bomb, or through the glow of a monitor’s screen. My conversations with them resulted in approximately twenty sculptures and drawings exhibited as Light Horse Tales of an Afghan War.[2]

Like most artists I’m inspired by what others have done but this can work in the reverse as well. What I wanted to produce were impressions of these experiences as visual art without any conscious moral lighting. I was, still am, convinced that journalism (as written, filmed or photographed) leaves open certain blind spots that only art, specifically visual art, can fill. So I was confident that there was legitimate space for this work in what was an already crowded subject. No photography or explanation would be a part of the displays, although a catalog was produced.[3]

The project began with the urge to share these experiences. My former comrades would have all this detail and a sense of how bizarre their time in Afghanistan was. What they told was always laid out in a very matter-of-fact manner. Conversations were informal, we would just be walking the dog or relaxing in the kitchen. To begin with I had no idea how to translate the stories. In some instances an image would develop and that moment would become a sculpture, a fixed state of being. But this approach couldn’t deal with all of the material I was handed.

I began to play around with just sketching out the narrative. I’d make cartoons over scribbled words relating the story as it unfolded, basically a storyboard. I was learning the stories but getting nowhere with them visually. At some point from under cups of coffee, piles of notes, maps, and souvenirs, the army’s translation pamphlets captured my attention.

These pamphlets aimed to bridge the gap between cultures. They were fold-out things resembling a cross between dangerous goods stickers and furniture assembly instructions. They laid out a kind of visual dictionary of militarily pertinent objects and situations. Shown a series of cartoons a local could simply point out a concept, say; a man/alone/with a beard/of average height/with a cell phone, and the ‘Ferengi‘ (western soldier) would comprehend. Obviously these could be conversations of great importance and getting it right mattered.

But translation is as complicated as culture. The pamphlets sort of worked. Little things, like dynamite (a red dowel with a wick and hash marks) which needed no explanation for young Canadians failed surprisingly with people not familiar with Bugs Bunny, television or, presumably, sticks of dynamite. A strip of male heads, in another example, showing a variety of hair styles led, I was told, to wasted moments of outrage and confusion.

“Who has cut all the heads off of these people?” “No, no these are just examples, please point to the ‘type‘ of head the man you saw had . . .”

It was this inability to understand, not only language but the larger culture itself, which drew me into the translation pamphlets as a form within which I could retell stories I was myself struggling to understand.[4] I’ll mention that for me a tale is somewhat removed and more open to distortion than a story. I was told stories and fashioned tales – this is an idiosyncratic distinction, I mention it here to avoid confusion.[5]

Now that I had a form to work with I set about scraping away what wasn’t a part of my developing imagery. Gone was the purpose of education, of persuading (with the promise of good intentions and good fortune). The size and shape would now be appropriate to an object of worth in its own right; the drawing would become a work of art, not a folded publication used as a job aide. Instructional sections would give way to a chronological narrative, made up not of general situations but distinct moments of time and place. The public addressed by the drawings would also change, so instead of depicting familiar scenes to people with other concerns these scenes would appear as foreign, being displayed now for someone looking for something to look at.

image 1: Light Horse Tales at the Douglas Udell Gallery

image 1: Light Horse Tales at the Douglas Udell Gallery

Rather than published comics the stories became prints, light jet prints mounted on aluminum. This is a fairly common medium in art galleries as is the practice of printing an edition of the same work. The largest of these editions contains 12 prints, so this was not a form of mass production or publication. Like an intaglio printed from a copper plate on a press these drawings would have no original. Drafted on a computer they were created through printing and must be seen in person, although there are small images of them in the catalog and online (the images accompanying this article for example).

With this new palimpsest I could begin telling a tale while at the same time drawing a drawing, or kind of drawing. Like the actual tablets and scrolls of some far off time, any previous form can be scraped clean to be recycled as something new. In art this recycling allows for a new take on a subject within an existing medium. Media contains its own meaning intrinsically and I made use of that. Parenthetically; these illustrated stories can be understood to have something to do with translation and comprehension because they are themselves in the form of an educational picture book in a foreign language. The materials and methods used to create the work effects how these stories will be ‘read’. The telling effects the tale.

I began learning the language; instructional pamphlets have their own rules. If I followed these rules I found that the resulting graphics looked remarkably similar to their seminal cartoons. These weren’t copies in whole or in part but depictions of a kind of graphic presentation. Pieces of existing translation pamphlets would not be collaged into a new story form. Instead, I co-opted the visual thinking that was behind the pamphlets. This distinction between reproducing and assuming the original does contain a difference in these drawings, which are concerned with how we remember as well as being tied to the particular event.

The anatomy of all things were simplified, smoothed over and held at a distance. Sometimes I would draw characters within a scene but often each thing floated apart from all the others like individual items in a catalog of memories (or picture dictionary). Afghan rugs with their crude representations of current events are similar in many ways to the language pamphlets and they became an influence as well.[6]

It really wasn’t my style of drawing so I had to learn the rules just as I had to learn to draw the letters and numbers of a language unknown to me for the text. I say draw because I was truly drawing each letter without any understanding of their meaning, which was researched and confirmed by others who did know. The whole process was quite alien and uncomfortable, like learning algebra in school, but it became more natural as the creative forgery progressed.

My work was checked, sometimes repeatedly, with the story tellers. I didn’t want a fiction but an accurate recreation of the event. That this is impossible was a given but working through memory and the limits of representation was at the heart of the work.

One of the soldiers I spoke to was Rob. His recollections, and critiques, were the most involved of all those interviewed. He was a member of the Canadian Battle Group, Task Force Orion, operating in the Panjwai district, South West of Kandahar in the spring of 2006. A typical exchange, while working on Rob’s Story, the most complicated of the narratives, would involve mistakes in chronology, and the wrong people doing things, in addition to the correction of small details in many of the scenes.

Rob’s story is a polyptych of four panels, 345 by 160 centimeters in total. It begins at a quotidian pace which is changed in a series of violent events before becoming calm again in a familiar signal that the tale is ending, but unlike most narratives this one is purposefully unintelligible as are the pamphlets that inspired it. There is a kind of plot which can generally be followed but it takes effort as the sparse text is in Pashto and the whole thing reads from right to left, as in Arabic script.

image 2: ‘Rob’s Story’, detail

image 2: ‘Rob’s Story’, detail

The events take place within a single day and revolve around the loss of an officer as she is wounded and later dies. A number of other recurring characters are also killed in the scenes or would be killed soon after so it was a very dark story for Rob to tell, myself to have drawn and for the viewers to take in. One of the more easily followed scenes, from the second panel, presents a soldier shooting a man while another dies at his feet. The battle writhes on with yet another casualty abandoned, along with his care giver, as the armies advance and recede in a succession of images similar to playing cards. Reading these tales takes some work as I don’t always give you want you want. What is gained in presenting Rob’s story in this way is a sense of the moment, what is lost is some detail and accuracy, but that’s the nature of translation and recollection.

Horrific images do occur in the drawings. Within popular culture there is a history of gruesome imagery as entertainment but there is something different, I think, in knowing that this did happen and these people suffered in the way that is shown. There certainly was a difference in my mind between making these images and watching the latest zombie movie with similar imagery.

I could have widened my sources, reading published accounts and interviewing more participants, but I wasn’t interested in journalism or history. I think this is why I have simply stuck with the titles of ‘so and so’s story’, as if to say “this is what happened and it happened to me”. One of the characteristic qualities of this group of work was the use of alternate national or individual perspectives. Perhaps most noticeably in Rob’s Story, the particular is emphasized (small and at times seemingly pointless visual details inhabit the drawings), giving the scenes the bizarre unexpected quality that I find true to life.

Shawn’s Story is a single print which centers on a life and death decision which Shawn, who was the ‘Sheriff’ for the forward operating base at Masum Ghar at the time, must make.[7] A man is brought to the gates through a battle at night. Badly wounded he needs more than can be given. Shown here are the bottom two scenes in which the dying man is presented to Shawn under an invented logo for FOB Masum Ghar (a baseball glove catching a rocket). The scene is arranged something like that of the Surrender of Breda, with soldiers, civilians and a cat all acting as witness.[8] In the final scene the dead man floats above his surviving friend who comes to the sheriff with open arms. What is expressed, who is the man, what was the fight all about? Again, the details are lost in my telling of the story.

image 3: ‘Shawn’s Story’, detail

image 3: ‘Shawn’s Story’, detail

Only four scenes tell the compressed story above which is a collection of icons, lifted from various places in and around the base. A backwards bullet proof glass logo, various company and squadron symbols, Will Ferrell (Ron Burgundy) as stencilled graffiti, and a sheet metal design from a civilian water truck are just some of the visual items included. These would roughly correspond to the posters, traffic signs, and coffee mug designs of your own lived geography.

The last print I’ll talk about is Renee’s story which is a single image. Renee worked with a CIMIC (civilian military cooperation) team. Her special role became one of connection to the communities through local women. All of the artwork from this project can be seen as the spirit of a moment taking over some medium to become visible to us. Sculptures, souvenirs, comics are all taken over here for that purpose. Renee’s Story assumes the image of a giant coin.

image 4: ‘Renee’s Story’, detail

image 4: ‘Renee’s Story’, detail

In military Afghanistan metal coins were discouraged, instead silent cardboard gift certificates,‘Pogs’, were carried for purchases at the coffee shops and stores of the rear areas. In Renee’s Story, like the other prints, little is given to help negotiate the scene at first. But with a closer examination of the drawing, quite a bit about her situation and that place can be inferred from the stilted arrangement and postures of the participants to the fact that only the green clad people have guns. A special place is made for the Afghan translator in the scene between Renee and a very old Afghan woman, who enjoy a careful conversation under the watchful eyes of the men. What I especially like about this story is the view it gives me of the way in which people place themselves within group settings according to rank and affiliation.

Renee’s Story is more similar to the sculptures of Light Horse Tales in simply presenting the scene. Rob’s and Shawn’s Stories differ by containing time as an element. The capability of graphic narratives to represent something happening, not simply being, was what I needed. Comics roll out events, while at the same time producing distinct images that stick in the mind to remain, in some cases, as icons. And that pop culture, primary color attitude, which some comics own, set the tone perfectly against the backdrop of the much simpler contingent existence of life in rural Afghanistan. The process seems very rational and calculated written out like this, but it wasn’t. It was just a series of gut reactions, choosing what felt right as things developed.

In telling these true stories I chose to leave in my own lack of understanding, making that failure a part of each tale. Pictures combined with text as graphic narratives have a unique way of adding to our understanding of the events they depict. The way in which they do this can also make visible the frustrating lack of comprehension that we all have to live with.

This is a very close examination of a set of prints with more explanation than most people would want. But I hope it is a welcome addition to the conversation among those of us who have an interest in the how’s and why’s of the (comics) art. Comics, and graphic narratives more widely, offer a unique way of seeing our world. The ability to include time without motion allowed me to tell these stories while at the same time laying out a visual portrait of the two cultures involved. To do this Afghan rugs, military pamphlets, and personal recollections were all recast in a new form.

It was very gratifying when, at the opening of the last exhibition several months ago, a woman told me as she was leaving, “I’ve seen the news and read about it, but I never really understood what they went through over there until I saw this show”.

Al Henderson is an artist whose work ranges from the handheld to the monumental. A focus on individual representation is common to most of his work. This fall he will be teaching in the University of Alberta’s Sculpture Department and he is currently creating an artwork for the new Rogers Place Arena, Edmonton.  He has been making public art for the past 14 years.

www.lighthorsetales.com

www.hendersonsculpture.com

[1] The South Alberta Light Horse Regiment

[2] Produced with the generous support of the: Alberta Foundation for the Arts, premiered at the Douglas Udell Gallery 2011, followed by the VAAA Gallery 2011, OAG 2015.

[3] Light Horse Tales of an Afghan War, 38 pages, colour. Available through The Douglas Udell Gallery, dug@douglasudellgallery.com

[4] To be fair; I have to say that I was most interested in the points of miscommunication in these field situations. They were humorous and quirky to me but I don’t have any contempt for them. Translation pamphlets probably do work very well in many instances making them a valuable tool.

[5] Also note that the words ‘print’ and ‘drawing’ are, for the most part, interchangeable as you read this.

[6] Look here for examples of Afghan rugs.

[7] A ‘Sheriff’ in a FOB is appointed to oversee all aspects of security: searches, patrols, animal control, medical evacuations, gate security etc. They do not wear marijuana decorated stetsons, cowboy boots or tin stars, as depicted.

[8] The Surrender of Breda

Images:

1. ‘Shawn’s Story’, ‘Tank’, and ‘Rob’s Story’; at the Douglas Udell Gallery, Edmonton (2011). copyright Al Henderson

2. ‘Rob’s Story’, detail, ‘lightjet print on aluminum (2011). copyright Al Henderson

3. ‘Shawn’s Story’, detail, lightjet print on aluminum (2010). copyright Al Henderson

4. ‘Renee’s Story’, detail, lightjet print on aluminum (2011). copyright Al Henderson

 
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Posted by on 2015/07/22 in Guest Writers

 
 
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