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Bart Beaty In Luzern 01
posted April 21, 2008


I had great plans of live-blogging Fumetto and have been taking pictures like a madman. I got the internet in my hotel room working and then realized that I had no cable to connect my camera to my computer. What do they say about the best laid plans?

That's OK, it's not the biggest change to the schedule at Fumetto this year. You see, the tigers didn't arrive. The cage was deemed "unsafe." Imagine that.

While thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) are descending on New York this weekend for the big con, I'm over here in lovely Luzern, Switzerland, taking in the year's most important festival for art comics. This is my fourth time here and I always say that it is getting better, but this year they have so blown by their competition that it seems like everyone else is standing still (or getting worse...).

How good is this show? I've only seen half the exhibitions so far (there are 19 in total) but the highlights have included:
* the massive Christophe Blain exhibition that stretches over two complete floors, and which features finished pages and preparatory work for all of his major works. This is a genuine bonanza of Blain material, almost too much to take in all at once. I spent a couple of hours there and will have to go back. It's magnificent.

* the same building houses a celebration of Ten Years of Atrabile, the fantastic Geneva-based press. The exhibition is a collection of comics done on Post-It notes in ten by ten squares by the likes of Frederik Peeters, Nadia Raviscioni, Graham Annable and others. This exhibit pushes the notion of "comics" a little closer to the world of "art."

* Ben Katchor has a nice exhibition up, much stronger than the one staged by Angouleme earlier this year as it is both larger and has more original art. Ben is one of those guys who's not completely sold on the idea that a comics exhibition needs original art, but it's nice to see so much of it here.

* Igort just had the opening of his exhibition, which features 25 years of his work on Baobab. Looking at his sketches and research material was really revealing of his process -– a fascinating detour into the mind of one of the greats.

* Drozophile, the other great Genevan publisher, also has an exhibition of objects to celebrate the launch of the seventh issue of their eponymous anthology. This one has items hanging from the ceiling to represent freedom, all surrounded by a hanging gauze maze. This pushes the notion of comics even further into the art world.
There's a lot more (Nicolas Robel, Atak, Tom Gauld at the Schweizerhof) but I haven't had nearly the time to take it all in. I did catch Gauld's charming lecture at the theatre this afternoon –- a packed house to hear about cross-hatching. Gauld deserves a lot more attention than he generally receives.

Finally, a word about tigers. The talk of the festival is not a new book, but a performance. Florent Ruppert and Jerome Mulot, who I have mentioned here countless times, have an exhibition of drawings of Spider-Man if he were a circus performer (balancing plates, swinging from a trapeze, etc.). It's witty and fun. But at the same time they have a space over by the art museum in which they have erected an enormous (25 metres in diameter) tiger cage around the fountain and filled it with wood chips.

Alas, no tigers have arrived for the most expensive exhibition in Fumetto history. So today, Ruppert and Mulot were encaged at their drawing table, inviting in the occasional viewer for an interview on the subject of wildlife in captivity, and then drawing the visitors mauled by tigers. The whole thing is too wonderful for words.

Tonight, live comics performances. Tomorrow, more shows, lectures by Ben Katchor and yours truly. Hopefully I'll be back with more news. And if I find someone with a cable for a Canon camera, I might even get some pictures up.


* illustration by Tom Gauld


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