Sunday, March 22, 2009

Failure of Text in images

I haven't been posting while I was in Australia. While I was there, I made these two drawings:

There was text in the speech balloons, but when I scanned these images, I photoshopped them out, because they just didn't work in context.
The words were based on a conversation I overheard, from the party in the yard next door while I was drawing. A European visitor had had too much beer, and was talking loudly about all sorts of things, mostly comparing Australia to his home. He sounded homesick. Eventually he started saying, "I don't feel like I should BE in Australia, as a white person. White people don't belong here, they aren't welcome because they are foreign invaders. Everywhere else i've travelled, I've met someone from that local culture who made me feel like I was accepted as a visitor, but not here in Australia." He sounded pretty distressed.
I paraphrased his words and made the topless woman say them. She was a picture from an "Australia is Beautiful" naked postcard, and I just added the rest of the decor randomly.
The second image had text based on the reply to this issue made by a housemate's friend when I told him the overheard conversation. He basically said, "Well the British weren't the worst colonizers in the world. Sure, they did terrible things, but not as bad as some other nations. And at least they did things to improve the countries they took over, like building railroads, instead of just pillaging."
I'm fairly interested in discussions of colonialism, so I used these two points of view, in a collage spirit. I figured that just as I was taking figures from postcards and re-drawing them, I might as well do the same with text.
But in the end I didn't find that I could show these pictures to anybody, without adding a big disclaimer of, "This is not really my opinion, this is a conversation I overheard." I guess words are just that strong, more loaded than images in this case. I mean a topless chick with pointy boobs is a topless chick with pointy boobs - whatever - but the words seem more likely to be interpreted as the artist's personal viewpoint.
I think in the end, the problem is that I feel so ambivalent about judging these viewpoints. I'm using the words without putting forward my own viewpoint. It ends up being really wishy-washy and confusing.
So, I used the clone stamp tool to just make it blank.


Sean said...

Joelle Sept, youre my hero.

Sean said...

I dont neccesarily think so... I know a lot of cartoonists who are into that 'overheard' vibe. derf- tales of the city, lynda barry, etc.

Joelle Sept said...

Hey Sean, thanks. You're right, the 'overheard' thing can work, I'm glad you gave me this information (as you do). I think I just felt like I didn't pull it off very well in that instance. Maybe it needed to look more like a dialogue to give it that vibe.

Or the epic, statuesque, decorative, sort of heroic look is the problem - that's why I thought it looked like "here is the WHAT I THINK." If I made the people look more dopey and cartoonish, it would say something else.