Thursday, 5 November 2015

Recidivist Vol IV: Part One: On a Plane



You can see the cover if you squint really hard
My first reading of Recidivist vol. IV took place on a plane in September 2015 on my way to Sudbury (a small town in Northern Ontario). I hadn't read it since January and barely remembered the content or what it was about. So I would consider this as fresh a reading as possible. I didn’t listen to the record at that time as the noisy environment of the airport didn’t feel like the proper venue to truly appreciate the sounds. The droning noise of the airplane engines was sufficiently loud to create an eerie sense of disconnection with reality. The plane was about half-full and as best I could recall, mostly friendly, quiet and self-absorbed people all around. 

The world moved around me at blinding speed while I floated motionless in place...
Recidivist vol. IV was a nightmare to read. It is deliberately difficult to read and some passages can only be seen at certain angles with light hitting it just so. The elevation and shifting direction of the plane made it nearly impossible to find a proper spot to read the comic properly. It created a surreal sense of disruption in which the very environment I was hoping to engage with a work of art was actively fighting against such engagement. Every sentence read was forgotten immediately as I worked frantically to catch the next one, trying to piece together a story that includes a certain speed of thoughts and an assured line, feeling inadequate and desperate. What did that person say? What are they trying to do? What does it mean? What did they say? Reading Recidivist is a cognitive experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. 

I remember going to the Carp Fair, going into the Gravitron with my wife and her uncle and being physically challenged by the ride. The centripetal force pushing me against the wall and dragging my daydreaming mind directly to the middle of my body, relentlessly engaging every fiber of my being into this one physical experience. Recidivist felt very similar although it was more of an intellectual experience than a physical experience. My hands were trying to reconnect the pieces, shifting the book up and down to find an optimal way to see the text as my eyes scanned the text, trying to discern the characters and words contained within. My mind was struggling to string the concepts back into a coherent whole, parsing through the noise, the light and the words to make sense of the story. 


The interior of the plane is grey and blue. They're very cold colors. Blue is reminiscent of ice and cold, in particular when paired with white or grey. I wondered why they would use such cold colors for a plane. No wonder so many people dread flying. The experience is unpleasant. There's a stress factor associated with the security (How long will you have to wait? Do you have all your documents? Will you need to remove your shoes?) and for all of it's irksome trouble, the place where you'll be travelling for however many hours is cold and uninviting. It is so far removed from the way we organize our daily lives. We make our living spaces welcoming, but the plane is in many ways detached from this. It is indifferent and inhospitable, almost clinical. 

The second story in Recidivist Vol. IV shares similar colours. The story entitled Revenge is in a metallic grey and blue. While it is a story about blame and about accountability to a certain extent, it is, much like the plane, cold and unrelatable. An unknown narrator is accusing another unknown person of various ill-defined slights. Lifeless tools are scattered about and Sally focuses on them. The lack of a clearer narrative removes some of the impact of the text. We aren't sure what happened and so it is difficult to relate too much. It doesn't have the immediacy of a presence as the other stories in the book. The over-abundance of text, coupled with the unclear nature causing the revenge leaves me with this glacial feeling. It is as cold as the environment I'm sitting in. But eventually, the plane touched down and things got quieter. I put the book away until the next reading. I walked out onto the tarmac to the terminal and hopped into a cab heading towards an equally cold hotel room.

Next: Skyscraper

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Abyss Stares Back #1: Teenage Profanity, Comedic Spirit & Nietzsche


Art is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity in this life -
Friedrich Nietzsche

The Abyss Stares Back is an odd comic. It`s immature. It's low brow. It's raw. It's crude. It needs refinement. It's the beginning of something great. I've had the pleasure to find a copy of The Abyss Stares Back, an odd short comic, at a comic book store in London (Ontario). I even accidentally met the artist, albeit quite awkwardly, during that short visit. The comic says it's by Patty O. Fernitür, which I'll have to assume is not a real name. I've done some research, but I've come up empty (the link to a wordpress has been removed or is not available), with only a handful of fake names for this artist, maybe it's Jillian Clair, Jay Clair. Or maybe her name really is Patty O. Fernitür, in which case, I apologize for the previous comment. Awesome name, not weird at all...

The Abyss Stares Back has an unapologetic punk attitude. A sort of "fuck the world", laissez-faire  attitude, relentlessly asking of the world "why are you doing what you're doing" and begging the world to be self-reflective. That is quite appealing to me for some reason. I've browsed through a copy of Punks: The Comic and it had nowhere near the amount of energy that this short comic had. The reader senses immediately that the artist has some angst and that this is their way to express it. A short warning for the crude nature of the material contained in the comic is prominently displayed on the cover, most likely making it even more enticing to the youth through it's defiant anti-authoritarian label. The comic opens with a comic about why women shave their pubes, followed by a fake history of poo, a reflection of couples holding things for each other, and commentary on scarves and beards. The fake history of poo is actually quite hilarious; a sort of absurd and surreal historical account of poo throughout history. It betrays a deeply comedic voice under all of this angst. 

The comic title uses a quote from Nietzsche which is slightly misleading. He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. If you study something for too long, you risk becoming it. When reading this comic, I see an artist who intends to fight against conformity and for whom the resistance method of choice has been derision. I understand that move; I chose to laugh at everything when I was younger. Comedy being the best way to ensure nothing ever gets to you. It's a shield; a shelter. By laughing at something, you rob it of it's power. I'm not entirely sure that this relates to Nietzsche in this context. Perhaps a fear of becoming like the majority and the inevitability of eventually becoming domesticated, like "the rest of them". I've always felt as though some aspects of my life were defined by a desperate need to not be like my parents, to not inherit their worst traits. Perhaps it is a fear shared by this creator. 

I hope that this artist finds her calling, whatever it may be. There's great promise in this short comic. The art appears quite rudimentary, but it's efficient. It's not polished, nor does it seem like it`s meant to be, but it could be, and this is all I wanted to see.