Mary Wept at the Comics Journal


My by this point extremely irregular column on European comics at The Comics Journal is making a bit of a departure today, presenting a critical assessment of the very Canadian and thus non-European master cartoonist Chester Brown’s new book of Biblical exegesis Mary Wept over the Feet of Jesus. In some ways an addendum to his last, fascinating and conflicted confessional, Paying for It, in some an extension of his nineties Gospel adaptations, and in others his to date perhaps deepest decent into hermetic eccentricity, it is worth a read.

I actually think that Brown is one of the single cartoonists about whom I’ve written the most. A lot of is accessible right here at this site.

I morgen bliver bedre i Information


Min anmeldelse af Karoline Stjernfelts albumdebut I morgen bliver bedre bind 1 bragtes en anelse forsinket i lørdagens Informer. Læs den her (hvis du har abonnement…). Nåja, og så bør du absolut læse Henry Sørensens langt mere udførlige anmeldelse på Nummer9, samt hans interview med skaberen.

How Did We End Up Here?

In their first issue following the terrorist bombings in Brussels, Charlie Hebdo published a leading article, signed editor-in-chief Riss, which displays some of the worst tendencies of the magazine (English version here). In it, Riss seems to hold accountable all Muslims for the actions of terrorists, skewing dangerously close to the kind of rhetoric employed by fascists. To regular readers, however, it seems clear that what he is doing is criticising the reluctance among Muslims to question aspects of their faith, parts of their holy scripture, that motivate jihadist violence. He specifically mentions the scholar and commentator Tariq Ramadan, with whom the magazine has a bit of an ongoing feud, as somebody influential who glosses over these issues in his efforts to teach non-Muslims about Islam. Riss’ other main target are multiculturalist non-Muslims who similarly prefer not to debate these issues and call out people who do as ‘islamophobes.’

The thing is, there are points to be made here: surveys made among Western Muslims indicate how widespread casual anti-semitism and homophobia are, how paternalistic attitudes toward women can be, and demonstrate surprisingly little discomfort with such passages of scripture as those that condemn to death apostates and women guilty of adultery. Obviously, surveys are not the whole truth, and I assume that most Western Muslims actually have a much more nuanced approach to life than statistics may lead one to think, but it does seem that there is remarkably little open debate about such issues among Muslims. This despite the fact that some of these attitudes and doctrine are anathema to a society built on the rights of the individual and constitute part of the foundations of jihadist terrorism. Similarly, left-wing and multiculturalist efforts to downplay them or place the blame for jihadist terrorism quasi-exclusively with Western foreign and integration policy (important as those factors are) are not doing anybody any favours either, least of all Muslim dissidents.

Unfortunately, very little of this comes across in Riss’ sloppy and sensationalist op-ed. It’s as if he is talking in the same blunt register as he does in his political cartoons, but without the humour. His defense of secularism–in itself essential to our societal model–is shrill and paranoiac. In the English translation of the piece, he (or perhaps his translator) even likens the purported conspiracy of silence described to terrorism. Strangely, and perhaps somewhat reassuringly, this passage is absent from the French original. The absurd claim that a Muslim baker who does not serve pork is somehow infringing our rights to eat what we like and thereby is complicit in terrorism, however, is present in both and is an execrable example that threatens to remove all sense from his argument–confirming the fundamentally unjust caricature of Charlie as a bigoted, hateful publication.

Of course, the editorial was written by someone who has been on the receiving end of jihadist Kalashnikovs. I expect this makes him see certain things more clearly than I, but it is also well known that anger does not make for great politics.

The Week


The week in review

Another week, another several terrorist attacks. Today’s in Lahore was even worse than the one in Brussels a few days ago. They may be low tech and claim fewer dead than other forms of violence, but I don’t know how these actions won’t change our societies quite radically, and mostly for the worse. Here in London we’re increasingly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yet, some of Palmyra still stands.

Happy Easter.

  • Stations of the Cross, London. At the National Gallery we participated in this psychogeographical art project with Jacopo Bassano’s Way to Calvary representing the seventh station. I found it a rich and rewarding experience not in small part because it encouraged one to explore various forgotten or at least dimly remembered parts of London. Very Iain Sinclair/Alan Moore, in some ways. Clearly, Apollo Magazine agreed.
  • Comics! Jen Lee had a great stint in The Comics Journal‘s diary section. Beautiful. Oh, and the same source delivered a fine interview with growing Wunderkind Michael Deforge. And Nummer9 presented some very promising webcomics work from the current students at the graphic storytelling programme at the Viborg Animation Workshop.
  • New hip hop! Aesop Rock is dope over Pusha-T’s “Untouchable”. Slime Season 3! Bob Rauschenberg.
  • Phife Dawg RIP. A great, underrated MC, part of one of hip hop’s seminal groups, left us this past week. Here’s a great oral history of the creation of A Tribe Called Quest’s second (and in my view narrowly best) album, The Low End Theory. And here’s the long-disbanded group’s last performance, on Jimmy Fallon, with The Roots, last autumn.
  • Image: Getty Research Institute.

    Piskets trilogi i Information


    I dagens bogtillæg til Information anmelder jeg Halfdan Piskets Dansker, tredje bind i hans mesterlige trilogi om hans fars liv — ja, egentlig er det en anmeldelse af hele trilogien. Læs den her, hvis du har abonnement, og læs evt. også min anmeldelse fra sidste år af trilogiens første bind, Desertør. Nåja, og læs også dette interview, foretaget af Ralf Christensen.

    Patience i Information


    I dagens bogtillæg til Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af Daniel Clowes’ nyeste bog, Patience, der via Aben Maler fik verdenspremiere i Danmark lige før jul og nu snart udkommer på originalsproget. Man skal desværre have abonnement for at læse den online, men der er en lidt anderledes engelsk version her.

    The Week

    Andrea Schiavone, the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, c. 1550, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art


    Just back from a quick trip to Venice for work. I had the opportunity to see the exhibition on Andrea Schiavone (1510-1563) currently on at the Museo Correr and will recommend it whole-heartedly. It’s the first exhibition ever devoted to this singular and very badly understood artist. The exhibition, curated by Lionello Puppi and Enrico Maria dal Pozzolo, makes a good attempt at establishing a chronology and a convincing account of his development as an artist. A difficult thing to do, since the first dated work we have from him is an etching of 1547, at which point he was well into his thirties and thus one would assume well into his career as an independent artist. It is possible to posit a small body of work that precedes this, but nothing datable to earlier than around 1540 — what was he doing before that? It’s anybody’s guess.

    Also, there are a number of works that don’t seem to fit anywhere, most notably the Palazzo Pitti Cain and Abel, which relates to the 1540s mannerist turn in Venetian art and consolidates a dramatic figural configuration derived, I think from Baccio Bandinelli (look at far right), continued by those giants of Venetian art Tintoretto (also in the show) and Veronese in the early 1550s. The attribution to Schiavone of the picture goes back to the seventeenth century and the general assumption is that it must be an early work, from before he started subverting perspective, anatomy and naturalistic colour to formulate his extraordinary — sometimes clumsy, sometimes exhilarating — explorations of expressive figuration. The thing is, there’s nothing else in his known oeuvre that looks like this picture, which is closer to (though probably not by) Pordenone, that muscular mannerist of 1530s Venetian painting, than anything else.

    Once we get into the 1550s, Schiavone’s development becomes somewhat clearer and some really fantastically original drawings, prints and paintings emerge. The exhibition makes a strong case for his adaptation of Parmigianino’s figural eloquence and Titian’s depth of colour his subversion of great central Italian figures — Salviati, to be sure, but more importantly, Raphael — into a distinctive idiom that, if one accepts the argument of the exhibition, actually anticipated and perhaps even inspired significant developments in the art of figures as great as Titian (who was clearly a close colleague), Tintoretto, and Jacopo Bassano.

    Anyway, there’s much more to say and I don’t have the time or wherewithal to do so right now, but if you’re around Venice sometimes over the next month or so, do go see this eye-opening exhibition. It closes 10 April.

    The week’s links:

  • Alan Moore! Craig Fischer had a great review up of Moore’s and Jacen Burrows’ first seven issues of the Lovecraft exegesis Providence up the week before last. It’s a great piece, which makes me look forward to reading the book, even if I’ve been largely disappointed with the direction Moore has gone in recent years. His previous Lovecraft book, Neonomicon, was mean-spirited and rather predictable horror-schlock and Crossed #100 was just plain drudgery. But it’s Moore, so it has to get a lot worse before I loose interest. Pagan Dawn had a terrific interview with Moore on magic. Holding out for Jerusalem
  • Hugh Eakin on Denmark, its immigration policy, and the refugee crisis. A great introduction to the political and social situation in Denmark that may help explain the depressing actions of the Danish government lately. Related: I found Oliver Guez’ call for increased European unity in the New York Times well stated.
  • Apple vs. FBI primer. Great one-stop guide to the specifics of the controversy. Was surprised to learn that an FBI mandated change of iCloud password landed them in this situation. What a screw-up.
  • My good colleague Xavier F. Salomon on Van Dyck’s great Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio, soon to be on loan from Palazzo Pitti to the Frick Collection for its exhibition Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture.
  • Bacchus and Ariadne: the Long and the Short


    Serendipity would have it that two separate digital initiatives at the National Gallery had me talking about one of my favourite paintings in the collection, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, for two consecutive weeks. One was our #PaintedLovers campaign for the Valentine’s Day season, which consisted of a series of very short and (hopefully) to the point expositions on selected paintings with love as their theme by myself and colleagues (above). The other is a new initiative, #NGYouChoose, where the public votes for paintings in the collection to receive more in-depth facilitation from the curatorial staff. This consists of a public lecture of half an hour or so that is then posted to the Gallery’s YouTube channel (below).

    It was a fun exercise, and hopefully the lectures and videos have been useful to some of you. I’ve got to admit, however, how difficult I find it to talk to a camera. This is particularly evident in the #PaintedLovers video, where I was ad-libbing a presentation where everything had to be on point, i.e. clear, devoid of mispronounciations, uhs, digressions, etc. I come across (to myself, at least) as mannered and robotic. As such it is a pretty good reminder that I need to loosen up when speaking into the dark glass.


    The #NGYouChoose lecture was also improvised — which is the way I tend to prefer it — and its lack of tight coherence shows it, but at least I feel more relaxed. I am talking to an audience that is right there, and that helps. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the camera mercilessly captures every nervous head scratch, every superfluous gesture, and my incessant shifting of feet. I get sea sick watching it.

    Sorry, this is mostly a bit of autocriticism. If nothing else, I hope it will help me do better videos in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy at least some of what I have to say on this terrific painting. Do let me know, and thanks for watching.

    The Week

    From Kevin Huizenga's contribution to Kramers Ergot 7


    The week in review.

    This week saw the passing of several notable people in letters. The one that hit closest to home here was the way too early departure of Alvin Buenaventura, one of the great artisans in comics publishing. I didn’t know Buenaventura and only barely met him, once, when he was in Angoulême with cartoonist and editor extraordinaire Sammy Harkham in 2009 to promote their giant undertaking Kramers Ergot 7. But he was one of those publishers one feels one knows through the facture of their books. And whatever else I thought of Kramers 7, it was a triumph of book production and a truly admirable publication in both its ambition and generosity.

    Generosity was, I gather from the many touching words from people that knew him, a defining trait in Buenaventura, which is no surprise, because that is exactly the impression one gets from his publications, from the lo-fi texturing and sharp printing of Souther Salazar’s overlooked Destined for Dizziness to the accurate, always vivid reproduction of radically different source material, often from one page to the next, in the monumental Kramers 7. Buenaventura set an example to aspire towards. RIP.

    Read Tim Hensley’s, Ken Parille’s, Dan Clowes’ and Anders Nilsen’s words and visit the comments thread of Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner’s obituary at the Comics Journal.

  • RIP also to the great Umberto Eco! Since this is already so comics oriented, here’s his famous piece on George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts.
  • Back at HU! With Daniel Clowes


    So today I made kind of a comeback. I’m back at the Hooded Utilitarian, where I haven’t posted for almost three years. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve found it difficult to find the time to write something that lives up to the content generally provided at the site and, frankly, the work I myself put into my writing there way back when. Naturally, that’s not a useful frame of mind, so I just decided to go ahead and write a short review of Daniel Clowes’ new book, Patience, which I enjoyed a lot.

    Patience came out in Denmark just before Christmas in advance of its US release next month, so I thought what the heck — if nothing else, I can maybe help start a conversation on what I think is a challenging and fun book. Go here and check it out.

    I am not promising to start writing regularly for HU just yet. Again, not because I wouldn’t love to, but well, because I still can’t shake this self-imposed pressure to write something good.

    Hr. Gris i Information


    Jeg så det ikke selv, men i sidste uge bragte Information min anmeldelse af Peter Kiellands mesterlige Hr. Gris, “En samling korte historier, der umærkeligt glider sammen til en episk livsfrise, der klæder livets gåder i urkomiske dyregevandter.”

    Hvis du har abonnement kan du læse den her.

    Danish Comics of the Year 2015


    Paul Gravett is back with his annual roundup of the best comics from around the world. Once again, I’ve contributed my selection of the best Danish comics of last year. It is reproduced below, but check out the whole list here. Continue reading ‘Danish Comics of the Year 2015′

    The Week

    Steve Bell for the Guardian


    The week in review.

    I guess the past week may end up being seen as a kind of turning point when it comes to Denmark’s international reputation. “Jewellery-Gate” as it has become known in Denmark seems like it may leave a lasting stain on my country’s image abroad. The new law is a particularly egregious — and hard-hitting — example of pandering to the voters that may just have backfired, precisely because its symbolism is conceived for maximum effect. Not even the politicians who proposed and passed it seem to have spent much time arguing that confiscating valuables from refugees would make much of a difference to covering the considerable costs of admitting and accommodating them. It is purely a way of showing their resolve to prevent too many immigrants coming to Denmark. Less attention has been paid to the more consequential and fundamentally more serious decision to delay family reunification for refugees by three years, a measure that has been roundly criticised by human rights groups. Continue reading ‘The Week’

    Information: satirebladet Spot!


    I juni sidste år lancerede en gruppe journalister, tegnere og akademikere satirebladet Spot, som er tænkt som en art dansk pendant til Charlie Hebdo. Der er nu kommet fire numre og jeg forsøger at gøre status over det prisværdige men stadig noget tyndbenede initiativ i Information, med implicit forhåbning om mere og bedre og sjovere og grovere i fremtiden. Læs her (paywall).

    The Week

    The week in review.

    Sorry, I can’t let it go. Yesterday I filed an article on the media shit storm over Charlie Hebdo‘s provocation, Riss cartoon speculating that poor, dead Aylan Kurdi might have become an ‘ass-groper in Germany’, had he been given the chance to grow up in Europe. I guess this small cartoon, buried deep within an issue with David Bowie on the cover and with many other, very different cartoons (one of which is at least as offensive…) is newsworthy, in the sense that anything Charlie does these days is potentially so. But: this is a still rather marginal left-wing magazine we’re talking about and casting it as the reincarnation of Der Stürmer or whatever in the manner of many, mostly uninformed left-wing critics is not only hugely overblown, but ignorant of context. Not to mention insensitive to the multivalent qualities of even heavy-handed cartoons. Look, it’s perfectly legitimate to criticise this cartoon for bluntly furthering an anti-refugee agenda — it clearly does, whether intentionally or, more likely, not –but this is mostly because of the media treatment of it. Continue reading ‘The Week’