Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tribes (2)

I will explain a little bit my aversion to McCloud's grid of classicist, animist, formalist and iconoclast.

I think it lends itself too easily to these kinds of mischaracterizations:

"My own natural orientation tends toward Formalist/Classicist, the two "headiest" tribes, but I often look with longing at the greener grass of the Animists and Iconoclasts, grubbing and hooting and blazing with passion and hurling their own feces at the looky-loos." (from Josh Corey's blog)

That is that if you're interested in seeing art as interacting with society (revolution or no revolution) you are somehow not artistic (you're just hurling feces) and not concerned with beauty, and I find that incredibly wrong. It also suggests that to see your work politically means you're kind of dumb ("hooting" vs "headiest").

This is - contrary to some - what my main objection to Corey's characterization of "The Cow" as "nakedly angry" was all about.

I mean: In order to think like this, you have to disregard the whole notion that artistic practices have political implications (Eisenstien's montage for example).

Now, I haven't read the McCloud book (I read "Understanding Comics" and I found it pretty underwhelming, though Joyelle is teaching it this semester in her visual/text class, but then she's teaching the Helvetica movie too.) and if Francois can be trusted, he says McCloud has some kind of new-age-ish deal about how we all must have these four inside ourselves, so perhaps I'm misrepresenting him. But whether or not we have all these insides ourselves, I think this kind of deal lends itself to cliche transcendent notions about art.

And as I said in the comment field below, I actually think Silliman's "quietude", however reductive it may be, is better because it attempts to take into account history and social dynamics of post-war American society and institutions. "Artistic tribes" don't exist in vacuum.

7 Comments:

Blogger François said...

Hm, yes, you are putting words into my mouth here. And in a bad way. All I was saying was that Daniel Walter's explanation was idiotic, since many comic book artists jump around this diagram around this career (for example, Stuart Immonen or Hugo Pratt).

12:22 AM  
Blogger François said...

Oh and McCloud's diagram is not a definition of "artistic tribes," but of the various tendencies of presenting the page, the panel and the content of the panel (which Gary Sullivan also writes about every now and then on his blog, and which I refer to every now and then when I think of the 9-panel grid).

12:25 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Umm...but at the same time, I think McCloud is speaking from an understanding of the history of the comic form, and how it (potentially) fits into the larger field of visual and narrative art. However reductive his categories may be, the work he does is pretty fundamental to the legitimization of comics as art. So I think we can see his work as a reaction to decades of parents and adult figures looking on comics as garbage that rots children's minds, and in that way, a lot of what he says is useful.

Of all the ideas to pick on, McCloud's are probably least troublesome, in that he doesn't seem to be terribly prescriptive in tone. I think he realizes that, in order to discuss the history of comics, he has to, as a matter of course, condense all these other ideas about visual art and narration. He's also trying to create a framework that ordinary people can understand easily. In other words, I think he's purposely curtailing his content such that it remains engaging and interesting for his readers (who are more than likely not lit. theory buffs).

3:36 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Yes, you are both probably right. As I said, I think I reacted more to Josh's reaction to the McCloud than McCloud's piece (since I haven't read it, I only read the English article about the book).

So, I would say, my response is not really about McCloud but how that kind of thinking takes place in poetry.

I wouldn't say I don't value "Understanding Comics", I do. I just think it's not that great. However it does have some very interesting discussions about Japanese comics, about which I don't know much.

6:34 AM  
Blogger François said...

Well, I wonder if any of the three people we are talking about (Walter, Ron Silliman & Josh Corey) read comic books. And if so (because Walter with his name-dropping, even though erroneous, indicates he does), do they read anything not-American (doesn't matter if we are talking about Batman or Robert Crumb here). What is at issue here, I think, is translation. It's one thing, to use a poetry example, for Pound to translate Chinese poetry while not knowing the language, and another to read an essay on Chinese poetry (without reading said poetry) and use it for one's own poetic/political aim.

What Corey does with McCloud's diagram strikes me as very similar to what Ron S. does when he applies this SoQ/PA model on say Persian poetry. It doesn't work! Comic books have had a different development compared to poetry, and one that has been influenced by its commercial success (relatively).

1:55 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

These are good points.

And that is when the shortcomings of Ron's model really shows up (become absurd).

I do think Josh reads/has read comics, though I don't know which ones.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Bill Knott said...

"hurling feces at the looky-loos" . . .

okay,

but there are other examples like Brecht, Mayakovsky, Neruda, Parra, Herbert and other names

from the Penguin Book of Socialist Verse

which was published in England but not in the USA because

because

because

8:04 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home