Friday, November 27, 2009

natural sequence / river


  1. How do you define abstract? This is of a title, of a representation.

  2. You don't see it as abstract - composition of stark black and white mezzotint-like lines?

  3. Robukka--so (judging by your comments on the last two posts), are you now the abstraction police? :)

  4. Rappel- this is beautiful

    Andrei- we do need to have some kind of cohesive definition. because without unified rhetoric and clear definitions how will this movement ever get off the ground and be taken seriously?

  5. Hmmm. Can someone name a movement (artistic, social, political, etc.) that has a unified rhetoric and clear (i.e. agreed upon) definitions? Isn't it more or less the case that, especially with artists, as soon as you play the Greenbergian definitions game, you are inviting people to, er, cross a line?

    This is a really beautiful comic. If I don't read the title, it seems completely abstract to me. If the linguistic frame situates it as representational, that tells me more about our perceptions and where "representation" resides than it does about the work itself.

    I think it is fruitless to posit firm boundaries around what is and is not abstract comics. I am comfortable acknowledging that this work resides in a fuzzy boundary zone. But then, I think the entirety of abstract comics is, definitionally, a fuzzy boundary zone. That said, I don't expect any of you to agree with me (i.e. share clear definitions or a unified rhetoric) -- but I don't think our lack of agreement will effect the production and reception of abstract comics in the least.

  6. Well, I tried to provide some kind of working, practical definition in the introduction to the anthology--the defnition which I used to select the pieces for the book. It is a bit wider than Robukka's, and I would warn against some kind of purism, where only the purest manifestations of abstraction will do. (By Robukka's use of the term, it seems that not even some of Jackson Pollock's most famous pieces would pass the muster. "Full Fathom Five"? "Sea-Change"? "Lavender Mist"?)

    Furthermore, It's silly to snap each time that someone posts here something that may not be an "abstract comic." Contributors are free to post what they wish, and they may assume that what they post somehow adds to the dialogue around abstract comics, or provides a wider context, or is simply an interesting example of abstraction or comics that other readers may be interested in.

  7. Hey Bungy--

    I totally agree, especially on the idea of a "unified rhetoric;" I tried to give a bare-bones description in the introduction of what abstract comics do, but otherwise one creator's approach, and view of what they are doing, may be very different from another's. I'm writing a more complex essay on abstract comics for an anthology to which I've been asked to contribute, but that will be my own take on the field, not a wider description on which everyone can agree.

    Nevertheless, for the anthology I needed some kind of definition--but you can see I described it above as "working" or "practical;" it's also more fuzzy-bordered. It really was a matter of setting a set of limits for what I could consider for the anthology, or else anything that has some kind of abstraction in it could still be considered an "abstract comic." (I've been accused, for example, of not including comics that are representational but that have an "abstract narrative." Can you imagine how unwieldy and incoherent that would have made the anthology?)

    By the way, I just fond your blog--I like this:
    I hope you'll keep at it.

  8. I just want to say that I didn't mean any offense and I wasn't myself trying to make any claims on what is or is not an abstract comic.

    I agree with alot of what both Andrei and Bungy had to say. I just meant that I think both are okay and good. That it is equally beneficial for Robukka to post his viewpoint on the subject (even if that is provocative or seems to be evident of a self-enforcer mentality) as it is for anyone else to post any viewpoint (assuming it not personally inflammatory).

    Rappel is doing something wonderful with his beautiful comic, and has clearly got us thinking. Robukka's criticism only started the conversation on the subject.

    Andrei my comments to you was not to say we need to limit things. In fact you pretty much said what I was attempting to say in your response to Bungy: "It really was a matter of setting a set of limits for what I could consider for the anthology, or else anything that has some kind of abstraction in it could still be considered an "abstract comic." ...Can you imagine how unwieldy and incoherent that would have made the anthology?)"

    all I'm saying is that that is a good attitude because things could easily become unwieldy and incoherent. I dream of a day when kids learn about abstract comics in an art history or art criticism course. I think we as the premiere artists in this new field have a chance to show how unique this is; how we can use comics to better achieve certain objectives. We need some softies willing to try anything and we need some hardliners to keep us coherent.

  9. Andrei, let me say first and foremost, I love the anthology you put together. The opening essay clearly articulates the framework you used to gather representative works for the phenomena you are tracking.

    That said, I think there is a difference between a singular, published anthology and a "movement." Not an absolute distinction -- the one sometimes bringing about the other (and I mean "one" and "other" interchangeably here). But where focus and publication requirements set (useful) limits on what you could include, an inernet blog perhaps does less so.

    You've inculded posts here before about "found" abstract comics, pulling sections from McCloud's _Zot_ as representative examples. That was very instructive for me. I even imagine that something as mainstream and as Kirby fight scenes could be framed in a way that accents their abstract qualities.

    Or, take for example, your choice in that opening essay for the anthology to have it paralleled with a (presumably) cypher version of the essay. It's the same essay (well, I guess -- I haven't actually done the work of decoding it), but presented in a way that makes us focus on the abstract shape of "text" on a page.

    What I think this does (for me, anyway) is ask me to be not only interested in abstract comics as a defineable thing, but also as a way of looking. The coded opening essay, at some levels, asks that I take a step back from the essay I can decypher and see it as also, ultimately abstract squiggles on a flat surface.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that there is so much to value about abstract comics as both a practice and a way of seeing that to get too caught up in firm definitional boundaries is counter-productive and, I think, contradictory. Isn't "definitive boundaries on the abstract (anything)" an oxymoron?

    Thanks for my blog shout-out. I am inspired by work and conversation here to keep exploring the abstract in comics, as reader and producer. Viva la abstract!


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