Unidentified Cultural Object

ocni.jpgIn time for the festival, Thierry Groensteen, Director of the national comics centre (CNBDI) here in Angoulême, and one of France’s preeminent comics historians, -theorists, has put out a collection of essays charting the cultural reception of the comics medium in France over the last half century or so. Half history book, half timely, critical commentary. It simultaneously surveys the development of publishing, amateur culture, comics criticism, curatorship and government support for comics culture, and comments on the current state of comics in French culture.

Groensteen acknowledges that comics have come far in terms of the cultural accept that he considers essential for its future health as a medium, but that anything resembling the consolidation of the younger medium of film has had for more than half a century is still far off. Comics remain an Unidentified Cultural Object, as he calls it, beyond the radar of both high and popular culture (by the way, a dichotomy he dissects and argues for the abolishment of in the final, and unfortunately rather slapdash chapter on whether and how comics can be considered as art in relation to the Western Canon).

Angoulême: danskerne!

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Masser af danskere i Angoulême i år! Metabaronen og yours truly kom væltende med selveste hr. Fahrenheit, Paw Mathiasen, hr. Aben Maler, Steffen Maarup og Ã…rets Unge, Simon Bukhave. Ankommet til byen blev delegationen modtaget med åbne arme af den danske eksiltegner, Terkel Risbjerg, som havde anvendt sit omfattende franske netværk til at sørge for indkvartering til alle mand. Efter en hurtig runde i messeområdet kunne det også fastslås, at Christopher Ouzman og Sivert Ibbo fra Danmarks nye klassikerforlag Faraos Cigarer er i byen (da Team Metabunker stødte på dem, sad de dog i koncentrerede forhandlinger med Castermans folk) – G. Floys Christine Jensen er her også et sted, og pludselig sad Thierry Capezzone og signerede HCA JR. i forlaget Jokers stand. Længere henne, i Soleils friske pust af en diskostand, luntede en glad Teddy Kristiansen rundt, og varmede op til signering af sit nye album, Carnet Rouge. Strip!s Poul Petersen har vanen tro slået pjalterne sammen med Bild & Bubblas folk, anført af Fredrik Strömberg, som også blogger (og blogger flix!). Til det røvkedelige og elendigt forberedte Charles Burns-sceneinterview, dukkede BLÆK og Free Comics-star Christian Skovgaard (som overraskende nok havde tøj på) op. Og så er der selvfølgelig manden, myten, legenden Erik Svane, dansk-fransk amerikaner, som i anledning af sit nye album General Leonardo, går rundt i fuld Leonardo-udklædning hernede, nice! Alt kører perfekt, alle er glade, og STRIP!-redaktionen har endnu ikke slået undertegnede ihjel i kølvandet på svadaen nedenfor et sted…

Photo: T. Thorhauge

Enter: Trondheim

So, we’re at the press centre which is the mirror-lined, gilded stucco-banquet hall of the Town Hall, and Lewis Trondheim just dropped by with a camera crew, talking nonsense and doing a little dance for us. No shit.

We exchanged a few words – he in Finnish, me in Chinese. Nice chap.

More later.

Photo: T. Thorhauge

Jokkeren brækker det ned

Danmarks førende MC, Jokeren, har skrevet en kort og koncis tekst om sit syn på hip hop, tydeligvis tænkt som en grundtekst til alle newbies, der ikke har læst på lektien, men samtidig også en art mission statement fra manden selv. Vi ved alle, at Jokeren er god med sproget når han tager sig sammen, og teksten her er sgu i det store og hele on point. Man kunne ønske sig, at han udtrykte sig på skrift oftere. Desværre rummer den samtidig et par paradoksale problemer, affødt af den storefar-attitude der naturligvis tilkommer ham men samtidig også får ham til at lyde en kende forstokket.

Jokerens præcisering af hvor hip hop kommer fra og hvad der er dens animerende kraft er både malende og skarpt formuleret og bestemt et velkomment bidrag til en dansk hip hop-kritik der ellers savner den slags fundementale indsigter. Det er følgeslutningerne, der er problematiske. I sin iver efter at bevise, at han bestemt ikke er player hater – det havde vi heller ikke regnet med, hr. “Gigolo Jesus” – tager han den værste spekulations-hip hop i forsvar.

Reporters, Real and Putative

Since it’s Tintin-creator Hergé’s centennial this year, the rights holders at Moulinsart have organized a large retrospective showing of works from his whole career in collaboration with Paris Beaubourg (that’s the Pompidou Centre to anyone not on the team). The show takes up a large part of the basement area that opens to the main hall, as well as the catwalk behind it. We get a little of everything Totor, the boy scout, and Quick and Flupke, the street urchins, to illustration and publicity work and, of course a large selection of original pages spanning the almost 60 year-long career, as well as sketches other drawn and written preparatory work (no models!)

Alagbé amends

Just received an email from Yvan Alagbé, who assures us that the Anke F.-book I mentioned last post will definitely be available at the festival. He writes: “Actually it’s a picture book Stefano Ricci printed with Depot Noir 4… We bought some copies from D406 and printed a new cover.”

That’s good news, Yvan!

Taste Malfunction!

alagbe_portrait.jpgSome might have thought that, the pirates would leave the Angoulême festival alone, now Lewis Trondheim had been elected President and reformed the awards. Not so. Despite the invitation – from Trondheim, not the festival, we understand – to avant-garde cartoonist and -publisher Yvan Alagbé to sit on the jury, he and his colleagues at pioneering publishing house Frémok are not satisfied with the festival’s treatment of anything that does not fit into the conservative mainstream sensibility of the festival organizers.

“Do you really know what (not who) you are dealing with here? In actuality, no. You don’t have the foggiest. Blinded by some diffuse aura, some notion of supposed influence, you really thought you had a means of pretending to be the new friend of these dishevelled rowdies to whom you’ve given the moniker “alternatives” [by having Alagbé on the jury], and that we will therefore stroll happily through your fair city, beholding the true face of the colourful publications you prefer (those of your childhood). You shouldn’t do such things. It’s called putting on a blindfold while playing with fire. It’s extremely dangerous.”

STRIP! ZZZZZzzzzzz pt. 1 (of 2)

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Skulle man være i tvivl, skal det straks fastslås: tegneserietidsskriftet STRIP!s bagmænd, Paw Mathiasen, Poul Petersen, Benni Bødker, Lasse Holm og Thomas Berger er alle hædersmænd. Oven i købet nogle overordentligt gemytlige og rare hædersmænd, vi er vilde med dem! Drengene har siden marts 1998 sikret danske tegneseriefans et magasin, som er udkommet 4 gange om året, komplet regelmæssigt : så absolut en prisværdig og respektindgydende indsats.

Men det nys udkomne nummer 36 konsoliderer en tendens, der efterhånden har været læsbar gennem en række numre: gassen er gået af ballonen. STRIP! er blevet et gabende uambitiøst, dybt forudsigeligt og komplet uengageret blad. Og det er synd.

Of Confidence

desiderio_boy.jpgWas lucky enough to catch the show of Quattrocento sculptor Desiderio da Settignano at the Louvre on its last day. You gotta be a bastard not to be taken in by the Florentine stil dolce – sweet style – of which Desiderio (c. 1430-1464) is one of the masters.

He is easy to love, but that does not make him less of an artist. Desiderio finds beauty in sweetness. And while this seems quite the natural thing to do, it is nevertheless a rare thing. Sweetness is usually just sweetness, or – *shudder* – cuteness. Desiderio is none of that. His busts of children, laughing or looking ahead in apt concentration, are tender statements of utter confidence in humanity.