I met with Selene Daswani, head of business development at Google Asia. I met with her because the night before I’d been struck by something she said about using the resources at her workplace to help with the social justice projects she was interested in. The following week we met for lunch and I got a tour of the google offices as well as good material for what will be the first graphic review I’ve made for a long time. Sketches above. I think I’ll be finished next week. Drawing this has reminded me of why I like comics – so much attention must be paid to organisation, and organisation is hot.
What happens when artists go into poor neighbourhoods and create art? Gentrification. And also documentaries such as Diamond Inside which I saw as part of Singapore Indie Doc Fest. It’s a documentary by Luis Sanchez Alba about Boamistura, a well-known Spanish art collective who go to Cape Town to paint murals in townships. This is not the first superficial documentary of its kind, but its the first I’ve seen in a while that both highlights and leap-frogs an obvious problem with its subject: while the artists in question are very dedicated to the idea of social good via public art, there is zero strategy for ensuring that the benefits of this art go to the people who live in the area.
The Omnivore just posted a blog about the lack of female reviewers writing about big, important, scholarly books. The reasons for this are as mystifying as the reasons we have social imbalances in any area of the arts. I know that there is a tendency for directors / CEOs / editors (largely male) to work within their familiar (largely male) circles, and that this can lead to the exclusion of women (and by extension black, gay, trans, disabled, poor people – you name it.) For example, I very, very rarely see editors/representatives from top (or even middling) publishing houses at small, raucous events with hot new voices, but I see them in abundance at readings by Russell Group alumni, the already famous and the nearly-dead. If you are clever, you will attend these champagne and nic-nac events because said editors are usually very friendly. Nobody denies inequality, however when it comes to redressing the balance those with power prefer you to come to them. I wonder if the same thing applies when it comes to reviews?
Last night I ate my dinner in front of Ghost (1990, dir. Jerry Zucker), starring the late Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore. Having endured Almodovar’s Broken Embraces the night before, I was in the mood for some straight-up cinema with a linear plot, a central hero and some good old fashioned resolution at the end – in this case, Swayze’s ascent to Heaven, having just sent the bad guy screaming in to Hell.
But what really got me was Demi Moore’s costume. Lead heroine in a button up shirt? One reviewer points out that “the only thing that is possibly more outdated than the visual effects is Moore’s infamous close-cropped hairdo.” But I thought it was kind of refreshing. After seeing Broken Embraces Housemate A and I sat and talked about the Penelope Cruz Porn that we’d been subject to; Penelope Cruz looks at herself in the mirror; Penelope pouts; Penelope walks down the hall in a tight suit; Penelope has sex; Penelope is crushed to death by a speeding vehicle. Thankfully.
In fact, scrutinising Demi Moore’s outfits and appreciating Whoopi Goldberg’s turn as ‘the store front mystic’ made me think of a show I happened upon last week. It was billed as ‘television’s first feminist tv series’ and aired on channel 4 in 1998. It’s called Big Women. Amazingly, the channel’s Test Tube Telly site has all four episodes available, so I spent two evenings in a bizarre feminist time warp. The series charts the humble beginnings of a feminist publishing house in 1971 and its eventual sale to a giant corporation in 1996. In an interview with The Independent, the writer, Fay Weldon, said:
“The series was [Tariq Ali's] idea. But I go on thinking that anything that is done by men and women together has a kind of energy and life as God intended. Things that women do together tend to be more dutiful.”It’s amazing this is the first drama about feminism there has been on television. But for so long we haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees.
“Perhaps the series will show how dangerous ideologies and isms are … you’ve got women with permission to hate men now and that’s what we have to pull back from.”
Another Londoner and I spent this lunch time pining for our city – me especially, as I have just realised that this year’s Big Draw will have a grand opening in Covent Garden. Go, if you have the time – it is advocated by such beautiful figures as Quentin Blake and Neil Gaiman. (Blake’s site is awesome. He too has worked on an alternative version of Rake’s Progress. Looks like I’m in good company.)
This afternoon I received the link to Shirley Dent’s article on criticism. Hurrah, I’m in it and am not being torn apart, though I admit my heart was audible as I scrolled through the comments. I read somewhere that it’s best not to respond to either praise or negativity, however I will say this: it is odd that my scribblings – completed less than a fortnight ago – should be aired on the Guardian’s website.
One person pointed out some corporate product placement which is a valid point and shall never, ever be repeated. Another said it looked like a gimmick, which is true; as far as criticism goes it is shallow. It is too short, as I said before, and unrealised… mostly I am geeking out on Alison Bechdel and Daniel Clowes, Neil Gaiman and Lynda Barry – all of whom have had years of experience. I am trying shit out. ‘Fun Home’ is FULL of literary criticism. The difference is that she is subtle. This afternoon I was reading it for the umpteenth time and noticed that the sentences are disjointed. In fact, it only becomes good writing because of the pause made necessary by the images. It could be the equivalent to a dash or some crafty enjambment. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s a novel approach and it’s a worthy, original one – one that avoids being gimmicky and the blatant work of an amateur because it’s so controlled. I am starting to suspect that control is everything. How to control pictures..?
I finished my review. It has ended up being better and worse than I expected. For one thing, it’s too short at eighteen panels – but my cheap scanner and even cheaper paper have pulled the job off surprisingly well. It’s clear, there’s only slight blurring on one of the images, the text is legible. The strange woman featured was supposed to be me, but she ended up being better looking with thicker hair. Next time I won’t go for realism – I might use the Dog Woman or Orlando or something. It’ll be up on Culture Wars next week.
I haven’t been able to find any other graphic reviews. I don’t think it’s a viable way to assess a book for two reasons: there is the issue of space. A 500 word article might be two or three inches. An eighteen to twenty panel comic strip will take the best of two pages in a tabloid. Second, it takes forever. I spent three whole days drawing and inking the thing. One thing I learned when I worked at Spiked is that you have to work fast; you have to write about something the DAY it happens, or else you predict it. There’s no time for proper reflection; no time to sit and consider which image is a suitable juxtaposition to the line about the spacetime continuum. It does, however, seem like an awesome way to present a pamphlet: graphic slim volume, anyone?
I re-discovered these guys on YouTube. When we went up to Manchester J and I were puzzled about why football went on and on and on with no respite. Y had to explain that there were leagues and premierships and cups and so on. The following is a great parody:
Also – GodTube. Yes, GodTube. And Chase Harper is the poster boy.
This evening I was in C, C & K with R, going over my poems. We have enough for the pamphlet, especially with the others I have lurking on my hard drive, but I always imagined that putting something together might be less… sickening. So far I have felt nothing but dread. In two months time it will be going to print, in three months time it will be there, on a table, in one of the best bookshops in London, for all the world to see. When Tolkien published Lord of the Rings he said that he had opened up his heart to be shot at. I suspect I’m sprinting towards a sheer drop. It was interesting anyway and I learned a new word – ‘amphigory’ which, according to R, is a posh word for nonsense.
The Burnside review is going strangely. I realise what a difficult job it is to put words and pictures together, since the latter must have a meaning of its own. It’s not enough to be literal and so I must come up with double the number of pointers. Pencilling is proving hard too: I suck at the human body. I am using my own as a model, but it’s insufficient. Hands and the shadows that indicate a turning neck are too intricate. I like torsos and limbs.
All the good stuff in London is taking place when I leave. In particular:
It’ll be at the ICA. I plan to come back for the 24hr comic-book marathon. It sounds too good to miss.