Inkers and Thinkers 2014: The Land is Alive by Bernard Caleo

The second presentation in the second block, on Graphic Representations, is from creator, academic and documentary producer Bernard Caleo titled The Land is Alive. On the day Bernard’s presentation was a crowd favourite, bringing an infectious energy and passion for comic books and comic book studies to the symposium. Throughout the day Bernard also sketched the presenters and aspects of their talks and these sketches can be viewed here.


Abstract –

In the graphic novels ‘Blue’ by Pat Grant (Giramondo, 2012) and ‘The Long Weekend in Alice Springs’ by Josh Santospirito (San Kessto Publications 2013), the Australian settings in which the narratives are set (the former coastal, the latter desert) are vital spatial determinants of meaning. They give more than a backdrop to the stories. The stories are embedded in landscape. Each of these author artists has developed a visual/verbal/design language specific to their graphic novel, able to be differentiated from the rest of their body of work. This graphic-novel-specific language is developed to sculpt a local fictional landscape. The quality of line, degree of cartooning (versus more figurative drawing) , layout of pages, colour versus black-and white, progression of panels and choice of wordless sequences and other aspects all advance a vision of country as inescapable and determinative of character and event.

In this paper I will present an analysis of the structure and design of individual pages and page sequences by Grant and Santospirito and argue that the form of comics gives their audience a reading experience of landscape significantly different to novel, film or music.

I will also consider the influence of repeated readings of these works upon my own comics practice in the construction of landscape in my comics pamphlet series ‘MONGREL’ (2012 – ongoing, Cardigan Comics), and the Melbourne 1888 based narrative ‘The Devil Collects’ currently being developed with historian Alex McDermott as part of a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship.


Bio –

Bernard’s Honours thesis was called ‘Tintin in the Territory of Narratology’(University of Melbourne English Department , 1994). He was the editor and publisher of the romance comics anthology ‘Tango’ (Cardigan Comics) from 1997 – 2009. In collaboration with documentary film maker Daniel Hayward he made the feature documentary ‘Graphic Novels! Melbourne!’ (Aisle 5 Pictures/ Cardigan Comics, 2012) which they have presented locally and overseas in 2013. In 2014 he is a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria, working on a historical comic with Alex McDermott, and will be an Arts Victoria funded ‘Artist in Schools’ at Fitzroy High School, running a comics studio for a group from years 8, 9 and 10 in term 3.


Inkers and Thinkers 2014 – Representations of Violence in Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Jeanne-Marie Viljoen

The second block of presentations at Inkers and Thinkers 2014 focused on Graphic Representations, the way comics can be used to represent violence, creative voice/style, and the landscape. The first presentation in this block was from Jeanne-Marie Viljoen looking at representations of violence in Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story with comparisons between the graphic novel and animated film.


Abstract –

Exploring comics’ unique combination of art and text allows them to represent what would otherwise be ‘invisible’.

Representing experiences of war and conflict in comics allows depictions of what has escaped from memory and is sometimes considered too horrific to represent. Comics, with their unique combination of words and images, radically blur the boundary between experience and representation. Comics are not the only medium that does this. Just as in film, in comics one is able to simultaneously experience the “‘nowness’ and ‘hereness’” of the self-conscious reading process as well as “the assault” on one’s senses as one experiences the extreme events depicted through the medium (Sobchack 2009: n.p.). This paper will explore this notion by examining Folman and Polonsky’s graphic novel representation of the Lebanese War in 1982 and the infamous ensuing Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp massacres, Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story (Folman and Polonsky 2009). This example is used because of the potential of image-rich comics to “intensify and make more self-conscious the ways our eyes and minds interact with whatever’s on the page or screen” ─ comics are both performative texts that construct experience of the moment and simultaneously draw attention to their own construction (Hatfield 2008: 130). This paper will also scrutinize the animated documentary, another representational form which attempts to cross the boundary between experience and representation. The additional power of the animated documentary to show what was hitherto thought of as ‘invisible’ to concealed from live action film – subjective emotions – (Honess Roe 2011:217) is also considered. However, this paper argues that comics, innovatively used as a combination of images, words and sequencing ─ do more because they involve the embodied reader actively in the story-telling. This paper contends that when reading a comic the reader is knowingly constructing the story that he/she is experiencing in an intense image-rich way that is not constrained by the ordinary linear logic of books. In the vein of the pre-eminent cultural critic, Edward Said, this paper will posit a position that urges readers to consider political comics as rich repositories from which to advance their knowledge of the experience of war and conflict. Following Said’s remarks in his memorable introduction to Joe Sacco’s comic Palestine, this paper declares that “[c]omics play[ed] havoc with the logic of a+b+c+d and they certainly encourage[ed] one not to think in terms of what the teacher expects[ed] or what a subject like history demands[ed]” (Said, cited in Sacco, 2003 ii). The reader’s feeling on reading the comic becomes part of the representation itself. Thus, this paper suggests that comics allow one to think beyond what is expected and show what is ‘imperceptible’ in some other representational forms. Comics broaden one’s repertoire of experience and representation in a way that is particularly useful in the representation of war and conflict when trauma has obliterated experience or it has become ‘unrepresentable’ because it is so horrific.


Bio –

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen is a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia at the Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding in the School of Communications, International Relations and Languages.


Inkers and Thinkers 2014 – Deviants’ Art and Fanzinshi: The Quiet Riots and Pixellated Protests in Russia’s SNS- enabled Manga by Antonija Cavcic

Our second presentation from the Inkers and Thinkers Symposium comes from Murdoch University’s Antonija Cavcic. Antonija could not attend the event in person as she was away in Japan on research but we were able to arrange for this YouTube presentation and then a Skype call afterwards.


Deviants’ Art and Fanzinshi: The Quiet Riots and Pixellated Protests in Russia’s SNS- enabled Manga by Antonija Cavcic

In the wake of the Pussy Riot trial, it is fair to assume that anti-establishment sentiment has lingered even after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Such phenomena as the seminal samizdat works produced under KGB scrutiny, the current IT-enabled dissemination of explicit content in Russian original, parodic, and scanlated manga (based on the Japanese tradition of self-published homoerotic manga known as yaoi), and the plethora of networks where Russian fans can share files and content ordinarily filtered out by Russian ISPs, indicate a relentless desire to produce and proliferate content unfit for Orthodox ideological frameworks in Russia. By examining several web-enabled avenues of expression, file-sharing, and interaction amongst avid Russian manga artists, this paper will attempt to demonstrate the extent to which these practices have evaded Russian censors, and thus illustrate how the ideological hammer enmeshed in identity politics inevitably became entangled in the World Wide Web.



Currently a PhD candidate at Murdoch University, her research interests include the parallels between women’s progressive publishing practices in Victorian Britain and contemporary Japan, food media and celebrity chef culture, and gender and sexuality in Japanese culture.

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