Just back from Leeds and my first time attending Comics Forum. I really enjoyed all the talks I attended in the two days, as well as getting a chance to see some of my favourite comics academics and catch up with most everyone. I missed a few folks, but that always happens.
I did a whole bunch of live-tweeting, for as long as my phone’s battery allowed, so you can catch up on the panels if you missed it by searching #comicsforum14.
My talk was first thing on the first day. I haven’t seen any documentation of it, as everyone was scrambling because the wifi in the library was down. But I heard from a few folks that they really enjoyed it, and it seemed well received, which is what matter most!
Power. Control. Dominance. These aspects of violence can be seen throughout the structures that define our world. In his 2008 book Violence, Slavoj Zizek identifies what he calls a ‘triumvirate’ of violence, of which subjective violence is the most apparent form. The sense of urgency and immediacy of subjective violence can be used to distract us from the insidiousness of the two forms of objective violence he defines: the symbolic violence inherent in language, and systemic violence, ‘the often catastrophic consequences of the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems.’ This talk will explore the relationship between these two forms of objective violence and the medium of comics.
In this talk I will focus on a specific example, Stray Dogs by Danjiel Zizelj from 2005. Both the form and content of Stray Dogs is permeated with a preoccupation with a violence that cannot be explicitly articulated, which can highlight how the repression of subjective violence can influence our perception of the objective forms of violence. Loosely framed as the memoir of a reporter, Stray Dogs is eight stories that coalesce to project the feeling of a mid-2000s New York shrouded in a miasma of both pollution and the interminable fear of a nation at war with a concept rather than an enemy. The artwork is black and white, but architectural angularity is betrayed by paint sprays that reference graffiti art, a transgression of people against a monolith of civic society.
I will use this comic as an example to show the medium’s potential to violate its own tropes in order to engage the reader in discourses of dominance, structure and power.