“Comics is about memory”

I came across a video from a French television program on comics featuring Chris Ware. You can download the torrent here.

A number of things he said struck me, namely about how drawing comics is more about how you remember things than the things themselves and how he feels that drawing comics is an inherently difficult and depressing art since you are busy drawing while everyone else is living. Maybe that says more about Chris Ware than it does comics, but it is true to a certain extent. Drawing comics means being an observer, more so than other art forms because your main task is to tell a story with words and pictures. This position as observer dictates a certain amount of distance from life and then the sense of alienation he describes as you retreat into memory and the past.

His home is lined with antique photographs and he fiddles with a phonograph while he explains the superiority of bygone times when people knew what life was really about. His nostalgia for and idealization of the past reminds me of Robert Crumb with his identical collection of ragtime 78 RPM records. In the same way, it is not his own past he is nostalgic for, but the remote past from the stories of his grandmother. Is it easier to be nostalgic for a time you never experienced? If you feel like you don’t fit in, is it easier to construct an idealized representation of a dead reality? Retreating into the past is a strategy for avoiding the alienation and uncertainty of the present. Even though the past is dead the imagination can imbue it with an almost mystical reality. In a sense, the past is the ideal framework for the imagination since it has a more definite form in the mind and can be more easily controlled as far as its meaning. The future is unlimited in possibility and in definition.

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