Conceptual Comics Archive
The last years, comics workers have been pushing the comics medium in uncharted territories. Originating from an international, highly diversified socio-demographic class of comics artists, collectives and publishing initiatives, contemporary comics are often situated far from the global epicenters of comic book production, and are located at the crossroads of different media, practices and sensibilities. The aforementioned vignettes are symptomatic of the political, social and aesthetic mutations that are currently shaping the comics industry. A polarity is presently developing between a given and conventional image of what is a comic and what comics artists and readers are supposed to be doing, and on the other hand, different conceptions that resist prevailing critical analysis and which I have loosely filed under the generic term conceptual comics.
In October 2020, I curated a selection of conceptual comics for the online media collections Ubuweb and Monoskop, popularly known as “shadow libraries”. In both Monoskop and Ubuweb, comics occupied a very marginal position and no systematic attempt has been made to form a comics archive. Nevertheless these relatively marginal forms of institutional memory are a productive context for marginal practices such as conceptual comics. These two conceptual comics collections feature books and other printed formats that were documented, and photographed from cover to cover, highlighting the artefacts materiality. Each book is presented along with metadata and a text from the publisher’s press release or a small critical introduction to the work written in order to provide background information for the necessities of the collection. The collection proposes to equally embrace the real, the unclaimed, the anticipated and the fictional practices in their perpetual materialisation. As a whole, it reflects on the specific sites of production and their potential to register meaning and organise discourse based on inscriptions of the industry’s material language. In an age where public libraries are an endangered institution, media collections run by amateur librarians emerge as new, vital topographies of sharing and a possible direction for an alternative of institutional reconfiguration in the comics industry.