A dramatic synergy – Martin tom Dieck

Copyright: Martin tom DieckWater is an important element for the Hamburger Martin tom Dieck, turning up in nearly every comic he creates. He uses this substance as a metaphor for the illustration of the inner feelings and thoughts of his protagonists, who attempt, as they are carried along by the flow of life, to avoid the whirlpool of decisions, as, for example, in the comic Der unschuldige Passagier (1993), in which a traveller wants to effect a change of course and wanders through the ship looking for the captain, from the bridge down to the engine room. During his reconnaissance, he meets a leaderless crew who continue to remain faithfully at their posts, and other passengers, who are resigned to their fate. But no one’s prepared to take control of the helm.

The following album, Hundert Ansichten der Speicherstadt (1997), is dominated by the element of water in both a narrative and a visual sense. In wordless, whole-page images, the observer drifts through the Hamburger Speicherstadt, a now disused dockland area for the unloading of ships. The protagonist, who physically resembles Buster Keaton, moves through a space that is undefined and which is apparently dissolving, because tom Dieck has his character slide in, under, through and over the water. And every depiction, whether it’s of human characters, liquid or solid substances, is drawn with swirling or straight lines, with fine or coarse strokes, is created in such a way that everything flows and dissolves into each other, allowing a dramatic synergy to develop. Monsieur Lingus’ Wissen über Wasser (2001, Monsieur Lingus’ Knowledge of Water) is also about the wet element, as is indicated by the title. But this story is far more cryptic in terms of its words and images and is dominated by somnambulistic and surreal sequences.

In Salut, Deleuze (2000) and Neue Abenteuer des unglaublichen Orpheus (2001), tom Dieck and Jens Balzer examine Gilles Deleuze’s work Difference and Repetition. This time the water symbolises the transition from life into Hades, the realm of the dead. The first volume shows the same set of images five times: the ferryman Charon taking Deleuze across and Deleuze greeting familiar faces, such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan on the other shore. Whilst the pictorial sequence of events keeps repeating, the dialogues are different, as they refer to the past, present and future. The next album brings together the strips that were printed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), in which the author and artist apply the thoughts of the above-mentioned philosophers to the many and varied problems of life. Martin tom Dieck, driven by the need to re-evaluate the traditional use of signs, investigates the illustrative and narrative possibilities of the comic.

Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
March 2005