Outlining Conceptual Practices in Comics

in European Comic Art
Ilan Manouach
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This article examines how the shortcomings of institutional representation in comics, and the shifting role of existing institutions in the industry, can engender a new comics practice. ‘Conceptual Comics’ mobilise the historical legacy of conceptual art in its capacity for institutional critique, self-reflexivity, alternative forms of skilling, and the prioritisation of context over content, to renew comics making and reading. My case study, Noirs [Blacks] (2015), a facsimile détournement of Les Schtroumpfs noirs [The Black Smurfs], closely approximates the original, with the same cover, number of pages, and format, but replaces four different composite colour plates by four uniform plates of cyan, resulting in a monochromatic deviation. Noirs demonstrates how a form, when no longer conventionally operational, can foreground industrial fabrication normally intuited as a transparent and mechanic process.

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