Conceptual comics is an archive of works that are unaffiliated with the commonly accepted history of the comics medium. It is a resonating chamber for conceptual works and unconventional practices that are little known outside of our community but also a springboard for establishing the conditions for an affective lineage between similarly minded practitioners. The variety of the collected material expresses the curator’s choice for a non uniform consistency and claim instead for a perpetual becoming of the medium. Nevertheless, these works share with each other many common issues and urgencies, alternating between material self-reflexivity and critical exhaustion. They operate on the margins of distribution and reception and their unlocatedness in the medium's spectrum is more than an abstraction: artists uncomfortable with the entrenched roles invite readers, in the absence of critical discourse, to engage with the works in non-specified, at times forensic, ways of examination. I argue that this condition, more than a minor drawback of a normative industry, induces new behaviours and forms of social relationships. Each of the works that are featured in this collection explores the very substrate of its medium not as a culturally neutral site, but as a way to build alternative historiographies, replete with its own material properties and signifying potentials. They propose to examine how social and economic forces and their related sets of activities and commercial, communicative and other routines compose the media’s meaning-signifying trajectory. The rainforest of pulp production, the printer’s studio, the readers’ column and the landfill are not simply the industry's geographies but are technologies of inscription in their own right. They are the integral elements of a material language that actively shapes the medium and challenges the reader to negotiate meaning through different distributions of transparency over opacity in its products. This collection proposes to equally embrace the real, the unclaimed, the anticipated and the fictional practices, in their constant materialisation, and reflect on their specific sites of production in their potential to register meaning and organise discourse based on the inscriptions of this material language.
About Ilan Manouach
Ilan David Manouach is a researcher and a multidisciplinary artist with a specific interest in conceptual and post-digital art. He currently holds a PhD position at the Aalto University in Helsinki (adv. Craig Dworkin) where he examines the intersections of contemporary graphic literature and XXIst century’s technological disruptions. He is mostly known for Shapereader, a system for tactile storytelling specifically designed for blind and partially sighted readers/makers of comics. He is also the founder and creative director of Applied Memetic an organization that researches the political repercussions of generative art and highlights the urgency for a new media-rich internet literacy. His work has been written about in Hyperallergic, World Literature Today, Wired, Le Monde, The Comics Journal, du9, 50 Watts and Kenneth Goldsmith’s Wasting Time on the Internet. For a fuller documentation on the above projects, the Brussels-based non-profit Echo Chamber is responsible for producing, fundraising, documenting and archiving Manouach’s research on contemporary comics, that has been presented in solo exhibitions to important festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. He is an Onassis Digital Fellow and a Kone alumnus and he works as a strategy consultant for the Onassis Foundation visibility through its newly founded publishing arm.