Newsletter No. 8 (October 2013)
As announced this summer, NNCORE's interim board met at the University of Copenhagen on 14th October to discuss its new structure as a scholarly association charging a small membership fee. Besides summarizing the outcomes of the meeting, this newsletter also contains a report on the Performance Studies international conference in which some of us participated and ends with information about upcoming comics studies events in Scandinavia.
NNCORE Interim Board Meeting and Constitution
A constitution for NNCORE is currently under preparation for formalizing the network's structure and functioning. It will specify the network's aims of promoting comics research within and beyond Scandinavia, the membership fees, conference frequency and funding, communication tools as well as board responsibilities and elections.
At present, Rebecca Scherr is the president, Michael J. Prince is the treasurer, Anne Magnussen is in charge of the website creation and maintenance, Fredrik Strömberg is administrating the Facebook page and Rikke P. Cortsen and Maaheen Ahmed are editing the newsletter. The executive board will continue until the elections in 2015. The next board meeting will also be held that year, ideally in conjunction with the NNCORE conference in Oslo. Rebecca Scherr is organizing the event, which will coincide with the Oslo Comics Expo.
Furthermore most of the original members of the advisory board have already confirmed their interest in continuing to cooperate with us. This includes Roger Sabin (University of the Arts London), Ann Miller (University of Leicester), Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main) and Jan Baetens (KU Leuven). We would also to like to warmly welcome the newest member of the advisory board, Jared Gardner (Ohio State University), and thank him for his enthusiastic response.
The membership fees will be around 20 euro for faculty and 10 euro for students. Members will be entitled to discounts at the conferences. From now on, the conferences will not be covered by the network's budget. Instead, the host organization will have to arrange for funding and charge conference fees.
As an association NNCORE will have a new, independent website which is currently under construction and should be ready early in 2014. Besides the official website, NNCORE also has a Facebook discussion group where, at present, members can invite non-members to join in:
Comics at the Performance Studies international Conference
By Gunhild Borggreen
In June, a group of NNCORE members participated in the annual Performance Studies international (PSi) conference at Stanford University, California. Ylva Sommerland, Rebecca Scherr, Frederik Byrn Køhlert and myself are all working with comics from some kind of performance studies perspective, so we decided to propose a panel at a conference in a field somewhat different from what comics studies is usually aligned with.
The PSi represents both academic scholars within the broad field of theatre and performance studies as well as practitioners and artists. Many of the activities at PSi conferences focus on the collaboration and exchange between theory and practice. Each PSi conference has a title or a theme, and this year’s theme was Now Then: Performance and Temporality.
To match this theme, our panel was titled “Drawing Time: Identity and Memory in Contemporary Comics”. In our introduction, we defined comics in broad terms as drawings and text structured in visual sequences that offer a particular organization of time and space. On the comics page, crucially, time is performed as space, and thus emphasizes a relationship between materiality and temporality. The time it takes for the artist to execute the drawing is intersected by narrative and visual structures that organize, negotiate or disrupt the aspect of time in the reading process.
Our performance studies approach focused on how comics “do” things through text and image, as well as through text-image relations and structure, narratives, formats, medium, distribution, and many other factors. Performance in the context of re-enactment relates to how comics perform repertoires of individual and collective memories of the past. This also connects to how comics perform instances of geo-political issues such as activism and resistance.
Frederik went first with a paper on “Autobiographical Performances of the Stereotyped Comics Self: Toufic El Rassi’s Arab in America”. Frederik pointed out how comics communicate via a performative iconography through which authors of autobiographical works can challenge, subvert or play with expected visual representations through the agency of performing the self on the comics page. Frederik took his theoretical points from Judith Butler, and argued that the performance of the self in autobiography can be constitutive of subjectivity as the writer creates a representation of a largely fictional self from the available discursive resources.
Rebecca, in her presentation “Joe Sacco’s Comics of Performance”, also drew on Judith Butler but rather than looking at the emancipatory dimensions of Butler’s theory of performativity, Rebecca focused on how Joe Sacco’s work Footnotes from Gaza presents news ways of thinking about everyday lives in which emancipation is nearly impossible because of the social and political situation. Rebecca referred to Butler’s Frames of War, and drew attention to framing suffering by arguing that Sacco uses framing in both a literal sense (in the book’s panels) as well as in an elusive sense by pointing out what is excluded in the parameters of “reality”.
My own presentation, “Documentary Manga on the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake”, focused on Yoshimoto Kôji’s Santetsu, a Japanese manga recounting a narrative of recovery in North-Eastern Japan after the earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011. I argued that three significant aesthetic and structural devises in Santetsu are performative in creating disaster ownership and agency, not only for the characters in the narrative but the reader as well: the leaps of temporality in the visual and narrative structure, the framework of autobiography, and the labour of drawing. They convey an emotional truth that keeps the recollections and memories of the people involved present and alive.
Ylva’s presentation entitled “Gravity, Play and Visual Weight - Sport Performances in the Works of Manga Artist Takehiko Inoue” focused on Inoue’s basketball manga Slam Dunk, to highlight the kinds of performance involved, both as a part of the play established in the basketball game in the narrative as well as the imaginary performance carried out by the reader. Taking her clue from the notion of visual weight, Ylva argued that an imagined gravity is necessary when translating sport performances into drawings. This links to the make-believe aspect of Roger Caillois’ six criteria for defining play because the reader has to pretend as if a sport event is taking place in the pictures.
The audience responded by providing relevant comments and questions, and one member of the audience explicitly expressed his delight in seeing comics studies being present in the context of performance studies. Such a remarks highlighted the main goal of our NNCORE panel at the PSi conference: to expand the scholarly fields with which comics studies may collaborate and exchange knowledge and vision, and to demonstrate how comics studies may contribute new insights concerning the current social, political and cultural situation.
Upcoming comics events
Seriefrämjandet (The Swedish Comics Association) is organizing a conference on comics archives in Sweden (30th November 2013, Lund). NNCORE members Rikke P. Cortsen, Michael F. Scholz and Fredrik Strömberg will be speaking at the event. For more information please visit:
In addition, Frank Bramlett (Stockholm University) and Kristy Beers Fägersten (Södertörn University) are planning a Scandinavian Comics Workshop for 5th May 2014 focusing on linguistic research in Scandinavian comics but open to scholars working with comics in general.
As always, if you have any information that you would like to include in the next newsletter, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newsletter No. 8 is edited by Rikke Platz Cortsen and Maaheen Ahmed