Dorénavant a 30 ans
- (1) Dorénavant - Andrew White
I first encountered Dorénavant through the cartoonist Derik Badman. I asked him for a piece of writing or criticism in French that I could translate, and he mentioned Barthélémy Schwartz’s 73 Notes on Comics. I read it, and then I read it again. I was taken with it right away.
First, I’d like to note that 73 Notes has had a significant impact on my own work as a cartoonist. Key questions for my creative practice include how to combine my interests in narrative and abstraction, and how to synthesize influences from fine art, from literature, from poetry, from being alive in the world, and, yes, even from within comics, into a coherent whole. It’s exciting to live in a time when creators like Warren Craghead, Aidan Koch, Yvan Alagbé, Dominique Goblet, and so many others can help illuminate that path. This was perhaps less true in 1986 than it is today. Maybe not. But in any case, 73 Notes has provided important illumination for me as well.
73 Notes simply expands the definition of what can be comics with allusions to Magritte, Mondrian, and Alechinsky, but it also firmly insists that comics must be uniquely and intrinsically comics. Both of these ideas are encouraging as I work to push at the edges of what comics can be. I also think often of the basic but profound concept of “global image and local image” put forward in the piece. For me this has multiple, nested levels of meaning. It drives home the essential importance of repetition in comics. It speaks to the interplay between images, the way comics can place two images or an image and a line of text in dialogue. It underscores the unique ability of comics to create visual resonances and rhymes across panels and pages. It reminds me to consider in equal measure the construction of a panel, of a page, of an entire work, because each can affect the others. Global image, local image…I think about it often.
I translated 73 Notes for an issue of Comics Workbook Magazine, a small anthology of comics and criticism that I co-edit with Zach Mason. It is the print component of the Comics Workbook website edited by cartoonist Frank Santoro. In many ways, 73 Notes is quite different from the other writing we have published. It is the only translation, and one of just a few pieces of writing not created specifically for our magazine. I also think it’s safe to say that Dorénavant is practically unknown in the English-speaking comics world – perhaps another argument against publishing the piece. But I chose to translate 73 Notes because it, and Dorénavant as a whole, feels so urgent and so contemporary. We publish Comics Workbook Magazine because we want to help create a critical conversation around the work we feel is important – both work that already exists and work that is yet to be made. 73 Notes made an important contribution to that conversation in two ways. First, of course, is in the specific ideas that Schwartz presents. I’m sure these have inspired others in the same ways they have inspired me. But there is also Schwartz’s general tone, his iconoclastic disdain for mainstream approaches, for comics that imitate film or literature or painting instead of staking out their own territory and searching for their own language. Comics might be “an underdeveloped territory of expression,” but I think that Schwartz says this with no small amount of optimism. The comics medium can do better, he seems to be telling us. It can, one day, “speak in full the language of its ideology, in every part of its territory.” 73 Notes on Comics helps us see how. I’m proud and flattered to have presented it to an English speaking audience for the first time.