March 8th, 2014
A video triptych by Finnish artist Salla Tykkä, The Palace comprises of three short films – Victoria, Airs Above the Ground, and Giant – that de-naturalise their subjects in a series of increasingly overwhelming ways. The contrasts upon which these pieces have been built risk obviousness, but if the slow, immersive quality of Tykkä’s visuals doesn’t quite break down this objection on its own, the steady accumulation and alteration of meaning that accrues through the progression from subject to subject ensures that this is not merely a prolonged statement of the obvious.
An Amazonian plant transported to England and named in honour a British monarch, the Victoria lily is for Tykkä a symbol of the spoiler of colonialism and Empire. Despite textual cues to this extent, Victoria is the most traditionally beautiful of the pieces in The Palace. Perhaps this is intentional – it is, after all, the entrance to this piece.
For the duration of this video, we watch the lily writhe through a time-lapse ballet of its life cycle, all to the strains of suitably “stirring” classical music. Does the ghostly choreography of the lily’s movements, its abundant grace emphasised by the editing, cause us to question the sequence of events that has brought this beauty to our attention? Perhaps, but as the lily’s colour shifts from white to pink its status as a “natural” spectacle is also subtly reinforced by the piece, the viewer reassured that they are watching something do what it was always meant to do.
December 10th, 2013
A thought occurs to me as I drag my sickly drunk head back to Glasgow from the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds: aren’t DECADENCE comics all a bit super-boyish in the end?
My throat too hoarse to speak with due to Saturday night shouting and Sunday con hustle, my brain so detached from its immediate environment that at one point I have to croak at Mister Attack to ask if we are in fact going backwards, the only thing I am able to do properly is comics. And so, I read through Lando’s Olympic Games, taking in page after page of landscapes that look as bare and arid as my larynx feels, squinting at the characters in survival suits, loving every second of it but questioning myself all the same.
“He’s just ridiculously on, isn’t he?” Mister Attack says.
I wince my agreement and keep on flicking.
It’s the survival suits that give me pause. As I shift out of Olympic Games and into a couple of comics by Stathis Tsemberlidis, Neptune’s Fungi and Epicurean Paradox, my drunken brain starts to worry that the spacesuits are emblematic of an attempt to build a stylish fictional identity, a barrier between person and world. My earlier thoughts about this aesthetic being “super-boyish” already seems glib and reductive to me, even if I can see where this thought came from. Something about the collision of cool influences, the sense that you’re reading the works of people who read only right comics from France and Japan, combined with a knee-jerk panic that aesthetics this good must in some way be suspect.
Where did I get the idea that comics could be cool? That they could communicate with the world while seeming at ease in it? From Brandon Graham, maybe, or perhaps just from The Internet.
Why would an encounter with these values provoke scrutiny? Perhaps because these comics do not reflect the values associated with my own formative experiences of the medium, bound up as they are with alt-comics and (sub-)superhero stories that mirror my own awkward, convoluted brand of self-reflection a little bit too clearly.
Comics scholars more erudite than me can argue about which specific artists have influenced Lando, Stathis and co, and armchair psychiatrists can deal with my issues at some later date – in this moment, my bleary brain is only capable of tracking where the lines on my face are going, rather than where they come from.
May 4th, 2011
Being: a speculative essay on the self-regulating limits of reality/a celebration of impurity/ a demonstration of the many sickening uses of human waste/ a manifesto for kinder, gentler wank fantasies/a failed attempt to write a feminist critique of The Filth/ and, finally, an embarrassed declaration that it’s time for something great …
1. In The End, Everybody Wins
There’s a moment in the last issue of Grant Morrison and Chris Weston’s scatological sci-fi horror comedy, The Filth, which seems to me to perfectly capture the panic of the moment. Greg Feely/Ned Slade, negotiator for the covert organisation known as The Hand and weird, porno-drenched bachelor, has finally snapped. After twelve issues of black comedy and painful existential eruptions, Feely has had enough. His pet cat Tony has died, depriving him of the only love he knew, and now he’s taking his protest right to the very heart of things, to his superior officer Mother Dirt.
As he storms through The Crack, Greg is confronted by his fellow Hand agent, Miami, who reminds him that he has been recycled into the very system he’s rebelling against. Before he was Hand negotiator Ned Slade, she claims that Greg “wouldn’t want to know” what he was:
You, Thunderstone, Bemmer… the whole crazy gang of social activists… You were all gonna destroy the foundation stone of the world.
The system is perfect, Ned. It has to be perfect; it’s all there is. Attacking The Hand is like attacking your own immune system. 
Does this seem familiar to anyone else? As the foundations are shaken and explosions go off all around, a wide-eyed Miami tries to stop Greg by telling him, what… that there aren’t any other options? It’s a statement that would seem perfectly at home in our current political climate. Don’t like the way things are going? Think that terrible acts are being carried out in your name? Feel a bottomless pit open up inside you whenever you even think about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg? Find yourself choking on your own sick when you hear Chancellor/arch bastard George Osborne give a speech to the Tory party conference in which he lays the blame for Moneygeddon (© Charlie Brooker & co 2009) purely on the (admittedly very guilty) Labour party, as though Blair and the boys weren’t just following Thatcher’s lead?
What about when he goes on to tell the poorest UK citizens that they’re going to have to pull their socks up, or claims that he “believes” in public services – does that make you feel like punching your own face off? Well, tough! This is the way the world works now, history has ended and there are no alternatives, so suck it up or go home. If you’ve still got one, that is.
Vote Labour or Vote Tory, hell you can even Vote Lib Dem if you like. This is what you’re getting, this half-cut shadow life. All other options have been deemed non-mutual, incompatible with life as we know it! And may the gods help you if you want to make any bigger changes – under the current system, your proposals cannot be countenanced!
And what’s Greg’s response to all of this? How does he react to this bold statement?
Well, he storms out, eyes blazing like a fucking demon:
But hey, wouldn’t you?