Over the years, the exercise of free speech by cartoonists has been a recurring theme on this blog. All the way back in 2006 I discussed the infamous Mohammed cartoons published by Jyllands Postern, and of course the output of Charlie Hebdo has been examined and defended on several occasions. Meanwhile, the free speech of cartoonists around the world is often something that English PEN has to defend.
This week, the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was criticised for publishing a shocking cartoon about migrants and rape culture.
It features a depiction of the terrible image of drowned three year-old Aylan Kurdi alongside what appear to be some dirty old men, chasing women Benny Hill style.
Last week I spoke at the launch of Draw The Line Here, the book of cartoons published by English PEN in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
I touched on a few things that I have already noted here: the punctured optimism after the 7/7 bombings, for example. I also explicity noted the fact that, on the day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, all but two British newspapers carried the same terrible image of the murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet, yet only those same two newspapers (The Guardian and The Independent) felt able to reproduce the relatively benign image of Mohammed on the cover of Charlie Hebdo the following week.
Amazingly, I also encountered a heckler during the speech! He protested that the incredibly crass cartoons that sometimes found their way into the pages of Charlie Hebdo were not worth defending. I unequivocally disagreed.
A recording of my speech is embedded below (and also on SoundCloud). Continue reading “Heckled about Free Speech and Charlie Hebdo”
Another article on Huffington Post, published yesterday. I’ll write something on the launch event too at some point soon.
Today we mark the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks on the London transport system, which killed 52 people. It’s also exactly six months since the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, in which 12 people were murdered.
The public response to both these outrages was an overt show of defiance to the terrorists. In the days after the London bombings people shared ‘We Are Not Afraid’ images and continued to ride the tube. Immediately after the Paris attacks, ‘Je Suis Charlie‘ became a message of solidarity and a statement that we will not be scared into silence.
The Paris killings also inspired artists to pick up their pens, pencils and paint brushes. Some of the most eloquent responses to the tragedy were not words, but pictures. A new book, Draw The Line Here, which brings together over a hundred such cartoons, will be launched today in London. Continue reading “‘Draw the Line Here’ Mocks the Men in Masks”
Here’s a fantastic feature article by Gillian Orr in today’s Independent, detailing the brilliant Draw The Line Here project. Yrstrly is quoted endorsing the book:
“It’s fantastic that these cartoonists are using their own right to free speech, to defend and advance the free speech of others,” says English PEN’s Robert Sharp.
Its a crowdfunded project. Head over to the Crowdshed website to support English PEN ands the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
xkcd is an online comic strip that has gained a cult following. Penned by Randall Munroe, it presents naif, stick-like figures doing strange, wonderful and weird things. There is a strong geek element to the cartoons, with physics jokes, science fiction references, and spin-off comic What If? which seeks to answer absurd questions with mathematical precision.
I love the sentiment which imbues the comics. Its wistful, and has an appropriate sense of awe at humanity, the world, and the universe. However, I can see how others might find it whimsical, precious or twee.
The latest cartoon in the series, Click and Drag, is really something. A man clutching a balloon drifts over the landscape. “From the stories, I expected the world to be sad, and it was. And I expected it to be wonderful. And it was. I just didn’t expect it to be so big.”
Underneath this is a large panel with a cartoon landscape. The reader can click and drag to reveal more of the image, and see little vignettes featuring other stick figures, pop-culture references, and rendering of architectural structures and geological features. Its a huge image in total, approximately 160,000 pixels wide, and so clicking and dragging takes a long time!
Why is this so good? Commenter Pochacco has a good, simple analysis on the NeoGAF meesage boards:
I have a feeling the author is trying to troll us.
It’s so “big” that you can’t see it all. You will miss some parts and it will haunt you. Just like life.
I suspect this is right.
But there’s more: This is art that is native to the internet, and therefore still relatively rare. While most art we see online (photography, film, creative writing) can actually be viewed in other media (on a wall, in a book, on TV), this piece of art only works online. The clicking-and-dragging is inherent to experiencing of the art. Users on the NeoGAF board are busy trying to download the entire panorama in its entirety, but doing that is a mistake that spoils enjoyment of the cartoon – that you can only see a small part of the image at any one time, and that you may miss something, is precsiely the point.