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Conversational Euro-Comics: Bart Beaty On The Opening Of The Angouleme Festival
posted January 27, 2011

imageBy Bart Beaty

For the thirty-eighth time, the last Thursday in January brings the comics world to France. Recent iterations of the Festival international de la bande dessinee have been marred by the global economic downturn, sparring between the FIBD and the city over costs, construction and snow. This year, for the first time in a while, there is no imminent "crisis" looming (though eyes will quickly turn towards L'Association's booth and their striking employees) and the Festival holds tremendous promise.

Last year Baru was belatedly elected President of the jury, and an exhibition of his work is one of the expected highlights of the weekend. He has already designed the most visually interesting FIBD poster in a long time, a graffiti adorned wall celebrating past presidents. Given his left wing politics, the president has already promised a greater emphasis this year on contemporary social relations.

The sheer number of exhibitions at Angouleme can sometimes seem daunting. The number is, if anything, up this year, though my own interest in some of the tent poles is dim. The World of Troy is the big genre-oriented crowd-pleaser, and a Peanuts show is being targeted at the kid's audience. It will be interesting to see how this presentation differs from recent American showings of Schulz' work in the Masters show and in Santa Rosa. The museum is also bringing back its 100 for 100 idea, in which artists redraw or dialogue with a page in the museum's collection. My sense is that last year's version was good but too long (50 for 50 would've worked better for me), so I hope we're not into the territory of diminishing returns.

For my money the two exhibitions at the top of my list are those featuring Dominique Goblet (image below). This is a coming out party for the innovative Belgian comics star. She has a solo exhibition and is included in the French Belgian group show.

FIBD has fewer panels than do most American shows, but the ones that they have are generally exceptionally good. This year's all-star cast of creators is highlighted by two talks that will draw turn away crowds: Moebius and Riyoko Ikeda.

Ever since the Zep presidency FIBD has promoted the integration of comics and live musical performance through Concerts des dessins. This year's is organized by past-president Charles Berberian. At night, in the Theatre, are a series of spectacles. Friday night opens with a concert by Fatoumata Diawara illustrated by Clément Oubrerie of Aya fame. Later the same night Philippe Geluck, one of the most beloved humorists in comics today, presents his one man show Je Vais le dire a ma mere. Finally, Friday night will see the president rock out, as Baru, Chauzy and Flao illustrate a concert by American neo-rockabilly group Heavy Trash.

All of this, of course, is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are dozens of additional art shows, artist talks, symposia, debates, and events. Plus an enormous concentration of books for sale. The Festival is open for business, and I'm heading to the tents.


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