© 2017 The Fact Finder
The first graphic novel I ever held in my hands was Persepolis, the iconic autobiographical work by Marjane Satrapi. I picked it up from a shelf in a bookstore, flipped through its first pages and randomly read some panels. There was this magic feeling about it as if the author was speaking directly to me. I bought it right away and picked an armchair in the library’s reading room to read just a little more. After three and a half hours, I had to put it down. I had read it from cover to cover. Since then, a whole new world opened up for me, one of the graphic novels, and has been growing ever since with every new author I have feverishly discovered. It was with every new author that I also became more aware of the process and the effort put into making graphic novels. How do these authors actually do it? How do they tackle such a complex construction that touches literature and visual art at the same time, as well as design and typography, that has to be ‘high art’ and ‘popular art’ all in one? How do they go through years of planning, research and progressively building up a narrative, until everything comes into one?
Our exhibition tries to deal with some of these questions, or raise new ones, by giving an insight into the tedious work process of several artists-authors of graphic novels. Some already have several titles to their portfolio, some are working on their first graphic novels after years of shorter stories and other formats, but all are approaching the making of a graphic novel from a different perspective. The exhibition brings to public view the ‘backstage’ work put into a graphic novel by presenting research, scripts, sketches, older versions alongside reiterations, pencil drawings, inked pages, speech bubbles layouts, coloured pages and more. (Alex Bodea, The Fact Finder).
26 April 18:00 o’clock
26 - 28 April 11:00-19:00 o’clock
29 April - 03 Mai 14:00-18:00 o’clock
Ali Fitzgerald is an artist and writer living in Berlin. She is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine as well as The New York Times. Her work has also been published in The Guardian, New York Magazine: The Cut, Modern Painters Magazine, McSweeney’s and elsewhere. Her art has been exhibited internationally including at the Haus am Luetzowplatz in Berlin, the Center for Book Arts in New York, The Austin Museum of Art and the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. Her critically acclaimed graphic memoir Drawn to Berlin about teaching comics in refugee shelters and Berlin's evolving relationship to Bohemia and immigration, was named one of the top ten comics of 2018 by New York Magazine: Vulture.
Her work in the exhibition is comprised of two different sets of sketches/notations linked to her graphic nonfiction book, Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe and her upcoming graphic novel about teenagers and suffragette history in the U.S.
Alice Milani, born in Pisa, studied painting and printmaking techniques in Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti of Turin and in ENSAV La Cambre in Brussels. She is one of the co-founders of La Trama, a group of artists and illustrators self-publishing comics and zines since 2009. She is the author of a graphic novel about the life of Polish poet Wisława Szymborska (BeccoGiallo Editore, 2015) and of scientist Marie Curie (BeccoGiallo Editore, 2017), translated into Spanish, English and soon in French. She was one of the selected artists for the scientific vulgarisation web-comic project ERCcomics in 2018. Since 2017 she is also the editor and director of a new collection of fiction comics for BeccoGiallo Editore.
The work she is showing in this exhibition is from her latest graphic novel, Università e pecore, vita di Don Lorenzo Milani (University and sheep, the life of Don Lorenzo Milani) to be published in October in Italy for Feltrinelli Editore. The protagonist is a very controversial priest (the uncle of Alice Milani’s father) who founded a school for poor kids in the mountains near Florence in the fifties. This work is halfway between a family memoir and a biographic essay, using original writings by Don Milani and recollections from family members.
Antonia Kühn studied communication design in Kiel and illustration at the HAW Hamburg. Antonia Kühn lives in Hamburg, where she runs a small animation studio. Her works have been exhibited several times, including at the Graphic Novel Exhibition at the Stihl Waiblingen Gallery, at the International Comix Festival FUMETTO in Lucerne and at the Comicfestival Hamburg. In March 2018 her first comic Lichtung was published by Reprodukt.
For the show she presents stages from Lichtung, the story of a family in mourning for their deceased mother, told from the perspective of the youngest son, Paul. In a series of everyday situations, you can feel how much the absence of the mother imprints upon the life of the three family members. Banal objects, food, or places, become symbols of loss. Kühn’s process evolves around changes of perspective and the repetition of motives. The limits of perception are blurred and the classic page layout of comics has been dissolved. She develops associative, enigmatic image worlds, playing with visual metaphors. She enjoys exploring the possibilities of speechlessness, sometimes awkward or dreamlike atmospheres and empty spaces within the page.
Barrack Rima is a comic artist and filmmaker born in Tripoli, Lebanon and living in Brussels. He is a member of the Beirut-based Samandal comics collective and has contributed with comics for the press and magazines in Belgium, France, Italy, USA and Lebanon. Author of Nap before noon, an ongoing series in Samandal and other magazines; of Beirut, The Trilogy, a graphic novel published by Alifbata (2017) and Cairo storyteller (in French, La Cafetière, 1998). His films include The study of the ambulant researcher (2009), The land of 48 (2003), and Souvenir from Beirut (1999).
In the show, he contributes with Dans le Taxi (In the taxi), as it was published in issue #1 of Samandal and as it was recently remade after a period of 10 years to be included in a publication for Alifbata editions. Why the taxi? The collective taxis are public means of transport in Lebanon where random passengers share a car during a trip. They become a public space in movement, a microcosm, a theatre where talking becomes a collective ritual of meaning. Rima’s method consists of drawing and then assembling the scenes in a structure made through explorations and variations. The story is not linear and can only be read partially, upside down. He will show the two versions of the story, side by side, together with documentation, creating a cinematic effect.
Joris Bas Backer, originally from the Netherlands and living in Berlin since 2003, doubts whether he has his own identity, or if anybody actually has their own identity. He grew up in The Hague, Bucharest, New York, and an uninviting small town called Oegstgeest and he became an attentive observer of people. As a child, to learn how to behave he studied other people, but never found himself. Now he writes stories and tries to make the world understandable.
Bas graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 2003. He has presented in picture frames, projections, installations, lectures, murals and as a woman. His first book, published in 2018 by the Berlin publisher Jaja Verlag, is a collection of cartoons by him and the artist Nettmann about their lives together and parenting their child, uniquely told from both perspectives, side by side, in one book. He has been the co-founder of the international collective Chicks on Comics since 2008. Currently, he is working on his first graphic novel, a coming-of-age story about friendship, transgender identity, body dysphoria and the last years before the internet became what it is today. Bas will present different stages from this work taken from throughout its seven years of preparation and from an early version of the work.
Maki Shimizu was born in Japan and lives in Berlin. She is the creator of the Adagio character, the embodiment of the Berlin experience typical for many artists and freelancers living in the city. She published several Adagio books: ADAGIO N°1: Alltag in Berlin, (Jaja Verlag, 2011), ADAGIO N°2: Im dunkelsten Winter aller Zeiten, (Jaja Verlag, 2014), Wie der Kater ADAGIO zu mir kam, mueckenschwein (Jaja Verlag, 2011), ADAGIO N°3: Mindvollness, (Jaja Verlag, 2017). Among other publications are YUKI – Portraits of our friends (Jaja Verlag) and Liebe Lust Prostata der Comic (Friedrich W. Zimmermann, 2017). She was awarded the Space Prize for graphic novel Ziqqurrat (Grand Prize) and Das Comicstipendium des Landes Berlin 2019.
For this exhibition, Shimizu will show stages of the book Adagio. Influenced by the consistently minimalistic style of the cartoons Father and Son, Peanuts and Moomins, Shimizu wanted to use simple black and white to express her personal sense of humour. She uses this concept of the comic to express both the timeless and limitless qualities of the medium. Carmela, is an abandoned project. The field research for this project took place during an artist residency for poetry in Wortwedding, where Shimizu rediscovered poetry as an art form. Carmela is a popular Neopolitan song written by Salvatore Palomba whom Shimizu met in Berlin in 2010. Shimizu wanted to tell the story from Carmela’s perspective, and through the lens of how the character is seen today instead of how she has been seen in the past. However, it became more complicated than Shimizu had intended and it had to be abandoned.
Özge Samanci, a media artist and graphic novelist, is an associate professor in Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Her interactive installations have been exhibited internationally, at Siggraph Art Gallery, FILE festival, Currents New Media, The Tech Museum of Innovation, WRO Media Art Biennial, Athens International Festival of Digital Arts and New Media, ISEA among others. Her autobiographical graphic novel Dare to Disappoint (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015) received international press attention and was positively reviewed in The New York Times, The Guardian, and Slate, along with many other media outlets. Dare to Disappoint has been translated into five languages. Her drawings appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Slate Magazine, The Huffington Post, Guernica and The Rumpus. In 2017 she received the Berlin Prize and she was the Holtzbrinck Visual Arts Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
She will present some of the stages from her work Dare to Disappoint. The preparation for this book took five years, she made four drafts before beginning to draw the originals. Her drawing process is a combination of analogue and digital. Her inventive method makes use of different mediums and materials, such as coffee stains, fishing line, hook, evil eye beads, fake jewellery pieces, stamps and leaves, things which she then often uses to collage. She has created a database of scanned found papers and textures, including candy wrappers, napkins, old newspapers and aluminium foil, to make different backgrounds for the book. She has also created a digital font from her own handwriting. She remarks that making Dare to Disappoint was one of the most challenging projects in her life.
Sophie Kurzer is a draughtswoman and visual storyteller born in Leipzig. She has been involved in drawing-based projects for the Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology of Martin Luther Universität, Zentralmagazin Naturwissenschaflicher Sammlungen and department of Asian art at GRASSI Museum, Leipzig. In 2017 Kurzer spent one semester in Riga to broaden her knowledge in the technique of mezzotint. Kurzer was involved with the international art group MOVE and in 2019, has been involved in the formation of the mezzotint group Die Schwarze Hand with Phillip Haucke and Mattes Fischer.
Kurzer contributes to this show with a book box, a story about a puppet-maker going to the supermarket, realised as a project in Riga in 2017 with the support of Rūta Briede and Juris Petraškevičs. Kurzer wanted to make an unfolding story in a matchbox – a tiny secret to discover while turning two matches as if they were dials. The project ended up bigger in size after she found a beautiful wooden box in an antique shop. The 1.80m scroll unfolds so the story can be read from beginning to end, this included some cinematic planning. The architecture of the buildings is used as a way to change scenes, the architectural elements acting as separators through which the puppet-maker enters or exits. After four months of drawing and testing, she was able to deliver a story which flows naturally, one which the visitor can unfold during the exhibition.
Max Baitinger, born in Leipzig, is an illustrator and author of comic books who works as a freelance cartoonist and publishes hiw own zines. His books are published by Rotopol and Reprodukt and have been translated into several languages. His works include Heimdall (Rotopol, 2013) and the graphic novel Röhner (Rotopol, 2016) as well as Book to the Head (Kus, 2015) and Birgit (Reprodukt, 2017) and many other contributions to anthologies. He published Graphic Notes (2016), Alright (2018) and Candyland (2019) as part of an ongoing series which will be presented in a collection by Rotopol in 2020. He has exhibited at Neurotitan (Berlin), TCAF (Toronto), Next Comic (Linz), Stadtmuseum Oldenburg and various Goethe Institutes abroad. Together with other cartoonists, he established the annual comic festival The Millionaires Club in Leipzig.
Baitinger will present Candyland, a 28 page two-colour risograph zine, printed by Riso Club Leipzig and distributed by the author. It is based on a comic strip originally made for a European issue of Smoke Signal, a New York based comics anthology in 2016. The strip depicts the author’s alterego daydreaming about breaking out of his work routine with the help of a self-created character coming to life. This version had to be dense in its narration with wordless drawings limited to small squares. For The Millionaires Club 2019 there was an opportunity for a more develeoped story that had more space and more drama.
Mikael Ross was born in Munich and became interested in the medium of comics from an early age. As a career as a comic book author didn't sound realistic, he decided to first learn the craft of tailoring costumes at the Bayerische Staatsoper and later started to study fashion design at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee. The evenings he would devote to his true passion: comic books. Eventually, he self-published his first short story Herrengedeck, which opened new opportunities. He teamed up with scenarist Nicolas Wouters for the next two book projects: Les pieds dans le béton (2013) and Totem (2016), both published by Sarbacane and Avant. This was followed by two years research on Neuerkerode, an entire village for disabled people, which resulted in the graphic novel Der Umfall (Avant Verlag, 2018), which he authored both as an artist and scenarist. The book is currently nominated for the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis and received the first Berlin Comic Stipendium in 2018.
The exhibited pages will give an insight into Ross’ working process. It starts with the written scenario, focusing on the dialogue, with sparse setup information. This is followed by the first visualisation: thumbnail sketches of each page’s layout. From this point Ross continues with raw pencil drawings that are further refined and simplified by tracing them on different sheets of paper, using coloured pencils to add colour. A final edit of the colour intensity is done in Photoshop. Each of these stages will be presented in our show.
Alex Bodea, Romanian born and living in Berlin, works at the crossroads of visual art, reportage and comics. Fuelled by a desire to witness and record, she is mostly interested in documenting (fact-finding) aspects of urbanity such as everyday street life, passersby typology, social dynamics and interactions. In her fact-finding missions, she has collaborated with and made visual stories about, institutions such as Serralves Foundation (Porto), Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Martin-Gropius-Bau, HAU, Berliner Festspiele, International Literatur Festival (Berlin) and Art Encounters Foundation (Timișoara). She authored two artist’s books: Visual Notes (on Berlin) and Six Breakfasts, one Lunch. Her comic I did not see Rome with you was recently published by The Guardian.
She is contributing to the show with documentation from her current graphic novel project, The Fact Finder, for which she benefits from the support of her La Box Residency (ENSA Bourges). The narrative has a story-within-story construction and deals with a dystopic reality in which the visual fabrics of the world have been drastically perturbed. The protagonist is an underdog-type hero - a migrant who finds unsuspected resources to deal with the drastic changes. Bodea’s process relies on her ongoing archive of many separate, minute stories (vignettes) which she collages into a linear narrative. She also draws in a way that combines different elements, separating speech bubbles, characters and background from each other, similarly to a theatre film-maker that works on separate scenes and puts them all together in the editing room.