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Verfremdungseffekt: Mr Punch and the Moslems

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While I'm still experimenting I am trying to tackle more political themes in my webcomic  -- Mr Punch and Prof Rabaggy [Emeritus]. It isn't an easy challenge to explore but I suspect perseverance will win out.

The best thing about this exercise is that I get to manipulate in montage mode and the interfaces I  improvise are exciting to work with. A little bit of snip here and there, some copy and paste, then resizing and positioning....

It's learning a language while making up your own syntax. That I can work 'quickly' with the tools I choose to use means that I am not handicapped by  pretension. There is no best-of-all-possible images -- just the flotsam I can harvest, usually from online searches.
…An artist who is inspired is being obvious. He’s not making any decisions, he’s not weighing one idea against another. He’s accepting his first thoughts. …Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre. — Keith Johnstone, Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre (1981)
Years ago I read Ways of Seeing and this essay by the Marxist cultural critic, John Berger , changed my view of 'art' completely. Of course Berger draws a lot on my other fav, Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Montage for me is the marriage of many of the possibilities flagged by Berger and Benjamin. If what we call 'art' is so readily reproduced in the digital age and shared, consciously remaking culture by recycling snippets of what is already available is  truer of our aesthetic production than we  are willing to own up to.

The other element of this I appreciate is that it locates dialogue up front and centre so that discourse gets to play out by following its own dialectical logic.

My theatre backgrund of course rules my preferences but while I'm a dedicated Brechtian I am also influenced by the perspective advocated by Keith Johnstone in regard to the process of improvisation.
“You ask me where I get my ideas? That I can’t say with any certainty. They come unbidden, directly, I could grasp them with my hands.” 
This may seem a contradictory convergence  -- although 'contradiction' is the driving force of all stuff.  When you start throwing all this  into the same pot with Dada and Constructivism..and Marxism, it has its own sweet logic. 

To me, anyway.

At least that's what I thought -- but I could never quite get my own creative juices in sync with the prospects that seem to be on offer. But when I realized the power of  comics and how comics could be created via montage methods, well, all my Christmases had come at once. 

No need to learn lines or perform. No onerous setting of the scene. No strict narrative form. No arty delusions hiding the tools used. Being both active in the panels  as performer and creator -- while   outside the process and  distanced in the Brecht sense. 
 Verfremdungseffekt (translated as "defamiliarization effect", "distancing effect", or "estrangement effect")
Self evident engagement where the value of the end result is greater than the sum of its many disparate parts.

It was also a bit of shock when I recognized that I could be 'me' (sort of) as though I was  a player in my own repertory company and co-star of my own show. (I thank the example of Harvey Pekar and Joe Sacco -- and the autobiographical comics genre -- for that option.)

I could also get this 'me' to work  my own preferred  hours and do all my bidding.

Since I have a commedia dell'arte background (sort of) the logic is sweet: cartoonery characterizations performing skits (albeit in panels on a web page) in empty black space calling up anything -- any tool -- that takes their fancy.

If you do your homework on the theory of montage  you'll perhaps see the possibilities.

What I get is this great synthesis to play with and explore. But the irony is that unless you have done Improv and fiddled with photomontage you may miss the argument I'm trying to make. This isn't about the digital powers of Photoshop (which I do not use) because  I'm not striving to reproduce reality seamlessly by manipulating images to pretend that they are original or arty. It's more snip 'em and slap  'em together rather than anything else. Discordance rules and has to be seen to rule.

It's like a digital pin board and John Berger said this about them.
“Adults and children sometimes have boards in their bedrooms or living-rooms on which they pin pieces of paper: letters, snapshots, reproductions of paintings, newspaper cuttings, original drawings, postcards. On each board all the images belong to the same language and all are more or less equal within it, because they have been chosen in a highly personal way to match and express the experience of the room’s inhabitant. Logically, these boards should replace museums.”- Ways of Seeing, John Berger
But then I could go on and on and maybe discuss Merz but then, that would be like opening up a can of worms...

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