Ilan Manouach: cc, “The Future of Comics Is In the Trash Can.”

Advisor/tutor: Rachel O'Reilly

Arnhem, June 2017


Language acquires a voice and speaks by itself, saying more than any individual utterance. Writing about practices that occupy a fragile position between entrenched genres, artforms and works, comics that are hardly recognizable as such, fictional or plainly impossible, is before anything else a reflection on language and the tools used to discuss them. Concepts and terms that are assumed to be productive for defining and locating this century’s contemporary art and conceptual poetry practices and trends have shown themselves to be of limited use in theorising comics. One could argue from the standpoint of professional craftsmanship, specialised presses, and the various comics schools, that there is little use in capturing comics via contemporary art fictions, defined as these are by an ever-expanding terminology that maps, identifies or commodifies practices and trends. Here lies this author's own personal malaise with regard to comics criticism; there is a language gap, exemplifying a microclimatic attitude, that accrues around comics, by the development of specific networks fostering a discursive production and a labour economy that is often positioned as peripheral to contemporary art. Makers can be complacent with the mediums' own fictions. They have an urge to pre-emptively satisfy a specific community, by setting in motion specific sensorimotor tropes, codes and references that are supposed to unlock and confirm certain values this community represents (e.g. the underground, the marginal, the outsider). By the same token, the community affirms through a typically ambivalent performance of self-pity, arrogance and bitterness its reaction against the contemporary art world's engagement with comics, and all that it represents (see image). This non-permeability of language in comics criticism is emblematic of the position the medium occupies in the cultural stratum. Language is a terrain of constant negotiation, and its use, misuse or abuse must be always thought in relation to hegemony; language materializes ties relating to issues of legitimation, domination, resistance, fostering artistic subjectivities and determining social reproduction. How can one map artistic practices that coalesce elliptically through a chain of salient gaps without reifying them by a contentious and normative use of language?