This article is from 2007.
Henry Northmore talks to project curator Mel Brimfield about the cross-genre, multi-platform Comic Book Project
The Comic Book Project is wilfully hard to categorise. It takes comic book art and concepts as its core, with an exhibition at the Collective Gallery, but also encompasses events at the Film Festival, Book Festival and Fringe, taking in music, comedy, performance and animation. ‘The idea was to put together visual artists with various different performers and cartoonists to come up with a series of generic comic strips,’ explains project curator Mel Brimfield. ‘What’s emerged is less specific; it’s become a starting point for a book, and from the book a programme of events.’
The book in question, Our Comic Book Project (Revolver) edited by Brimfield, brings together comedians, artists, writers, filmmakers and actors to create works based on comic strips. But the book took on a life of its own, becoming a jumping off point for further collaborations and projects.
‘It’s about combining audiences and bringing new people into art,’ says Brimfield. ‘For instance we have John Hegley appearing at the opening for the gallery. Obviously he has his own audience which is entirely separate from art and hopefully they’ll dip in and out of the other things to.’
It’s these ‘other things’ that really give this exhibition an edge. Yellow Jacket by Brian Dewan will be a live recording of a new radio show based on the popularity of 1940s serials such as Superman and The Green Hornet. Dewan will lead a full musical ensemble while the likes of John Hegley and Sir Gideon Vein will provide the voice work. At the Film Festival Lost & Sound: From the Collection of Mark Newgarden screens some of cartoonist Newgarden’s extensive collection of found film footage. ‘I went to meet Mark and discovered he had this beautiful collection of found films, hundreds and hundreds of them, he’s an avid collector. I asked if he’d be interested in putting together a selection. And because a lot of them were silent it just seemed to make sense that some of the performers in the book create responses to them.’ Finally there’s the Book Festival event, which features readings, performances from the likes of John Hegley and Suzanne Andrade, and Simon Munnery interviewing himself by live satellite link-up.
With such an eclectic line-up, you’d assume it would have been challenging to get everyone reading from the same page. ‘Once I’d introduced various artists and performers to each other they immediately understood why I had used them,’ says Brimfield. ‘It was like some mad dating game, they’d arrange to meet up and show each other their work, get together and have a chat. It was actually easier than you’d think.’
Artists and writers like Chris Ware (creator of Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid in the World, the first graphic novel to win the Guardian First Book Award), Harvey Pekar (American Splendor) and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) are pushing comics in a new direction, opening them up to new audiences. This loving celebration of the comic form just proves how wide and versatile a genre it can be, showcasing the talent involved and bringing new performers into the fold to push at the boundaries of what comics can offer.
The Collective Gallery 2, until 2 Sep.