dinsdag 25 november 2014

a (very) quick note on Joe Sacco

Hannah Arendt, when asked about the 'outraged' tone of her 'Origins of Totalitarianism,' once responded that the tone in which one 'reports' can't be separated from the events one reports on. If I remember her correctly, she said something like: totalitarianism provokes outrage in a human being. That's part of the phenomenon. One can't testify to it while at the same time ignoring the impact it has on one as a historical witness. (Or something of that order).

In an interview in Critical Inquiry, Joe Sacco claims that his comics on Palestine were driven by outrage (54) Later, in the same interview, he speaks about the slowness of comics. They are a form of 'slow journalism.' And his drawing style seems, indeed, to highlight the painstaking, and time-consuming process of drawing.

Sacco's comics, then, highlight the 'human' dimension of witnessing. Perhaps a split in temporality, between the seeing and reporting - that is, of course, a structural element of every act of witnessing - yet that seems to be foregrounded by his style. (Another complicating factor: there is 'Sacco' the figure in the pictures (who is mostly depicted as someone who watches) and 'Sacco' the hand that draws…

Also: the images often contain so many details that 'reading' them takes more time than the instance lasts that is depicted. The moment of reporting (drawing) seems to 'stretch' the moment that is reported.

Mitchell (again very insightful), points out that witnessing in Sacco's work is often very indirect: "… you have an eyewitness who is verbally telling the story…. and the story is being translated into images by you. So it is a double translation, as if the reader is forced to understand all the layers that lie between you and this reality…' (61)

Yet, as the interview progresses, it turns out to be even more convoluted: Sacco claims that he does not work from sketches. He sometimes uses photographs, but he mostly works from verbal descriptions. Sacco: "You know, memory lasts for about a year or two. But that's why I write notes to myself in my journal. I often write very visual descriptions in my journal. I keep a very religious journal at night. That's where I'll say, don't forget to draw this, or I will describe something as a writer would describe something visually, so I can transform it later." (61)

He also says: "It is much easier to hear stories than to draw them. Drawing you actually have to really picture it or try to picture it and, as I said before, inhabit things." Yet, strangely, he chose to delete a panel from Palestine that seeks to depict the experience of being beaten from the inside (depicted in CI 69), because he felt he need to 'restrain' himself (65). Why that need?

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