Comic Scene

Perspectives from the field: the global protest culture in reportage drawings

(c) Enrique Flores(c) Enrique FloresComics, drawings or caricatures: There are more and more drawn images cropping up in the online media, on blogs or on artists' websites that depict the global protests of the past two years through artistic means, and thus tell subjective stories.

Witnesses of various protests: Enrique Flores and Viktoria Lomasko

Artists can achieve immediateness in their reporting by going to protests in person, becoming involved and creating artistic documents on the spot. They record what they see, feel and hear so that they can post reports online by the next day at the latest. This is the way Enrique Flores works in Madrid for instance, and Viktoria Lomasko in Moscow.
Demonstrations and rallies continue to be regular events in Russia's cities. Opposition activists, anarchists, nationalists or supporters of the “Nashi” youth movement are all expressing their very different diverse points of view in public places. In her long-term project “Chronicles of Resistance”, Viktoria Lomasko has been recording the full spectrum of contemporary protest in Moscow. What interests her most in her work is how to draw a crowd when it is on the move, or how to depict a rally's individual face.

Viktoria Lomasko TV SymbolGallery of pictures by Viktoria Lomasko from Moscow

The protests in Spain, “Moviemento 15M” (The 15th May Movement) might be happening at the same time as the Russian ones, but their motivation is quite different. It is a united movement that criticises poor economic and political conditions, and expresses concern over Spain’s future in Europe through colourful, peaceful demonstrations and meetings. Enrique Flores tries not to miss any of the demonstrations in Madrid. Like Lomasko’s, his pictures are created on the spot. He formulates his approach as follows: “I try to draw what I see and note down what I hear. I want to be an eyewitness.”

Enrique Flores TV SymbolGallery of pictures by Enrique Flores from Madrid

Comic journalism: reportage drawing versus photography

The growing popularity of documentary drawing is frequently linked to fact that there is suspicion of manipulated photography. The question as to whether artistic images that formulate a subjective perception merit more credibility today than photography – which has after successively replaced the drawn news image since the beginning of the 20th century – was one of the starting points for "Tauchfahrten (DivingTrips) - Drawing as Reportage". This exhibition was an important milestone for the genre of reportage drawing in German-speaking countries. As a result, the curators, the artist Alexander Roob and the art historian and curator Clemens Krümmel, founded the Melton Prior Institut, which researches the international history of reportage drawing.
(c) promoThe American Joe Sacco, who has been reporting on wars and conflicts worldwide since the 1990s in drawn stories such as Palestine, War's End: Profiles from Bosnia or Footnotes in Gaza, is considered the pioneer of comic journalism. Sacco, who studied journalism, works like a correspondent: He researches stories, does interviews, observes what he sees and … draws everything. His own constant presence in the picture is his way of highlighting the filter of his subjective perception. In his book Journalism he comes to the conclusion that the comic medium is the best journalistic form because it does not allow for neutral reporting – the author always has to take a standpoint – and this then becomes part of the news.

Comics on the net

The international project The Cartoon Movement has taken on the task of carrying out the editorial work for quality political caricatures and comics on the internet. One thing that can be found on the website are artistic documents that are developing the “internet comic”. In such stories, the user can plot his/her own course through information – this is how Luke Rasl’s comic Chicago is My Kind of Town reported on the protests that took place during the NATO Summit in Chicago in summer 2012. Traditional documentation methods such as video, photos and audio are creating a new hybrid reporting format – the internet comic. In Germany, the artist Bo Soremsky has been conducting research into how the potential of the internet can be used effectively for reportage drawing, and how this new type of artistic journalism can be presented.

Perhaps the future of the political comic and in particular of comic journalism and reportage drawing lies in the internet – because it allows artists to report on an event spontaneously, subjectively and without the confines of censorship. However, many fascinating questions remain unanswered – such as how added value for the artistic creation process can be created if the internet is used as a medium, or how such high-quality works can gain public exposure in the overabundance of information. Who will do the editing? How can works of art published on the internet be appropriately remunerated? It is still the case that “presence” is primarily a physical presence. Today’s protest movements are also proving this: They are organised on the internet, often through social networks, but people go out onto the key public spaces of their cities just as they did a hundred years ago – and the record-keeping artists are right there in their midst.
Olga Vostretsova
was born in Novosibirsk and worked in the Goethe-Institut's culture department in Moscow for many years. She currently works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Leipzig. She is also studying for an MA in Cultures of the Curatorial at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig.

Translation: Jo Beckett

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
April 2013

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