Panier de singe
After Safari Monseigneur in 2005, Ruppert and Mulot are back in the Ciboulette collection. As in Safari, Panier de Singe is built around a representation device : in Safari, the two jaded and ironical reporters used to structure the successive portraits of colonial glory, and those two reporters appear again in Panier de Singe, attempting throughout all this book to catch on film the zoophiles at the Jardin des Plantes.
The different steps in their quest frame independant sequences presenting the same approach as in Safari, based on the multiplication of framing and layout devices. Again, the “portraitists” take over the role of strange narrators, guiding the reader (in spite of their eyeless faces) in the gallery of horrors they explore, indifferent and monstruous. From the mutilated people orgy to the blind men’s race to the boomerang beheading, here is a succession of fifteen scenes, macabre, absurd or even frankly unsettling, story fragments or improbable stories in which the neutrality of both drawing and text contrast with the violence of the subject.
Violence of the contents, but also violence to the language : not only the nonsense of the scenes is deliberate, but it is associated with the systematic crisis of the very way to organize picture sequences.
In this aspect, the portratists device follows in the steps of the previous book, but pushes even further the formal experimentation. There is again the maniacal decomposition of a sequence of action in dozens of nearly identical panels, as if time was suddenly slowed down, in a sort of flip-book, linear and mute : thus, the stages in the mutilation of two prostitutes in the last story (sic) is broken down in 62 panels on a single page, with 56 of them using the same framing with an infinitesimal variation in the posture.
This fondness for movement is also apparent in “deaf men are not butterfingered”, with the idea of using sign language in speech balloons — an idea already present in Safari — or in the superposed strips of the blind men race, which present over eight successive, long and narrow panels, the progressive stages of the race and the fall.
In all cases, the aim is here to deliberately slow the narration, by overplaying the serial form of the images : infinitely decomposed, movement loses its meaning, forgets the narration itself, installs itself as the only visible and worthwhile object, and finally thoroughly alters language (the deaf-mute example shows it clearly, such as the long double-spread illustrating a mobbing : 50 small panels with a same format, alternating shot and reverse shots ; on one side, a man on the ground gets a beating from another, and on the other side, another man with raised arms, slowly says in phonetics the following sentence : “no wait I was kidding he didn’t hook this fish in your back it’s not me either” — broken down in 25 phonems).
This particular attention to movements and postures, directing the strange mute ballet of the often eyeless bodies, is also at the root of another formal experiment, more radical this time : the recomposition of the image itself. It takes many surprising shapes, which are also used to stop or slow down the narration and fix or lose the reader’s gaze.
Thus, a sequence deals with “stereoscopy in the saloon” : in a saloon of the Old West, a cowboy taunts a tenderfoot ; the critical stages of the story are organized in stereoscopes (sequences of six pictures on the six faces of a cube, with pairs on opposite faces). Another technique consists in decomposing the pictures caught by the zoophily searchers in a bundle of lines, segments and points that can only be read through complicated cutting and folding.
Finally, the book uses, in the long sequence of the mutilated orgy and its prologue the technique of the phenakistiscope : a sequence (in fact, a sequence and a sub-sequence, as the main picture is completed by another, smaller picture as an illustration) is decomposed all around a cardboard disk ; rotating the disk around an axis will animate the pictures with two small sequences repeating themselves over and over, one above the other (you can see the phenakistiscopes running here).
In this way, the most extreme formal experimentations of the OuBaPo are put into use for this little shop of horrors, playing perhapseven more efficiently than in Safari Monseigneur on the contrast between, on one hand, the detachment produced by the neutral approach and the refined representation techniques, and on the other hand, the brutal and grotesque farce of the various sequences.