Rethinking the Comic (Seminar/Workshop)

Michael Baers
Rethinking the Comic

Seminar/Workshop, English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Wednesday, 16-20 h, weekly from 10.5.-28.6.2017, 7 dates: 10.5., 17.5., 31.5., 7.6., 14.6., 21.6., 28.6.2017, Hardenbergstr. 33, room 151

The Comic, whether considered as graphic novel or newspaper strip, has been until recently a much-maligned form. This workshop has been conceived to mirror my own interest in the comic, and to suggest ways in which it can be both remotivated for fine art production and used as a critical tool for examining art practice and social issues alike. In keeping with the format of a semester-long course, in an introductory class I will present my own comic-based work, and my reasons for electing to work with the publication format. I will then present a brief overview of the evolution of the comic from turn of the century newspapers to the present day, especially as it relates to the formation of the mass media, and contextualizing the development of the form in terms of broader cultural and social developments, as well as specific influences like film and literature. This will be followed by discussion and analysis of particular types of comic production – Ad Reinhardt’s remarkable art comics of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the underground satirical comics of the 1960s, the confessional/autobiographical comics of R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Harvey Pekar and Alison Bechdel, and the journalistic/historical comics of Joe Sacco. The course will also cover the way the comic has been used in art, and particular cultural iterations of the comic, including a session devoted to Manga, a class devoted to French, Italian and Belgian comics, and a class concerning feminist comics. Critical texts about comics in general, situationist strategies of detournement and agitprop, Manga, and underground comics (the latter treated, in the American context, as a self-referential development of the form which frequently refers, in a satirical mode, to earlier comic characters and situations), will be assigned, as well as two general text books on comics and an assortment of art historical and theoretical essays.

The second part of the course will cover formal and structural elements of the comic, including the relationship between the comic, film and fine art, including collage and montage, appropriation and citation. These classes will help students carry out an assignment (detailed below) developed throughout the remainder of the workshop.

For the remainder of the workshop, participating students will develop and workshop a project which is to choose from one of the following categories:
1.       To make an autobiographical comic
2.       To make a comic recounting an episode in history or exploring a particular geographic area (from region to neighborhood)
3.       To make a comic about a work of art and its production, reception and meaning
4.       To make a fictional comic or
5.       To make an essayistic comic that might move between the previous categories.

In the final session, the finished works would be critiqued, paying special attention to how they relate to the normative practices the students deploy, or to the specific social issues they have investigated.

Suggested Readings:
Buchloh, Benjamin H. D.: “Raymond Pettibon: Return to Disorder and Disfiguration,” October, Vol. 92, Spring, 2000, pp. 36-51.
Carrier, David: “The Aesthetics of Comics”, University Park: Penn State University Press, 2000.
Corris, Michael: “Cartoons and Communists” from “Ad Reinhardt,” London: Reaction Books, 2008, pp. 33-60.
Crow, Thomas: “Saturday Disasters: Trace and Reference in Early Warhol,” Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001, pp. 49-68.
Greenberg, Clement: “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” Partisan Review, Vol 6, No. 5, 1939, pp. 34-49.
Holmberg, Ryan: “I Speak Publish” and “For Your Words”, two short texts on Manga artists.
Hutcheon, Linda: “Selections from A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms”, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Johnson, Monica: “Today’s Feminist Comics: Why I Don’t Relate,” The Comics Journal, published online, March 3, 2016.
McCloud, Scott: “Understanding Comics”, New York: Harper Perrenial, 2004.

Leistungsanforderung für den unbenoteten Studium-Generale-Schein: continuous and active participation.

Michael Baers is an American artist, writer, and researcher based in Berlin since 2005. He has participated in exhibitions throughout North America and Europe and has contributed comics and essays to many publications and print initiatives. In 2014 Haus der Kulturen der Welt published his graphic novel, An Oral History of Picasso in Palestine, based on extensive research of the Picasso in Palestine project from 2011 as part of the third installment of the Berlin Documentary Forum. In 2014 he also completed his PhD as part of the Praxis-based doctoral program at the Vienna Academy of Fine Art. He has been researching a unique photographic project that emerged from the war between the people of Western Sahara and Morocco, Sahara Occidentale, con poche immagini, since 2013.