Ed Piskor and the Sirens Song

Hornsby, Ian (2018) Ed Piskor and the Sirens Song. In: Graphic Brighton 2018, 19th and 20th of July 2018, Sussex University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Ed Piskor’s ongoing series Hip Hop Family Tree, of which four volumes have been published so far by Fantagraphics between 2013 and the present, not only brings together two nostalgic aspects from Piskor’s own youth but also attempts to revisit the feelings of excitement in his initial experience of discovering both comics and rap music. The possibilities and problems inherent within such attempts to return to the experience of ones’ past are explored in Adorno and Horkheimer’s engagement with Book XII of Homers Odyssey which “…tells how Odysseus sailed past the Sirens. Their allurement is that of losing oneself in the past” (2002: 25). In many ways, Piskor manages to capture his own nostalgic feelings of the past in this reimagining of both the comics and music of the period, but in doing so he unwittingly re-establishes a patriarchal position that not only privileges his own gender, but also his ethnicity.
With this position set out, the paper will argue that the art style Piskor develops in Hip Hop Family Tree, not only pays homage to the ‘underground comix’ aesthetic of creators such as Robert Crumb and Trina Robbins, but also to the more ‘popular’ sequential art styles of creators such as Jack Kirby and Will Eisner. In doing so Piskor makes a return to the ‘repressed’ theme of pop culture in the aesthetic style of ‘alternative comix’ that is often perceived, rightly or wrongly, to have eschewed aspects of pop culture. This stylistic critique in ‘alternative comix’ of the ‘Culture Industry’ mirrors Adorno’s elitist position and fails to see what Walter Benjamin praised in mass culture as being a site for radical politics. Piskor’s work is not only a nostalgic re-telling of Hip Hop culture but also attempts to address contemporary ethnic, race and class politics. Therefore, this paper will argue that for all its shortcomings, Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree should not be read merely as a piece of cultural revisionist appropriation of the history of Hip Hop music, or as merely a form of ‘blank parody’ of previous art styles (Jameson, 1984: 65); but can be seen as a form of artistic pastiche (Hutcheon, 1987), that contains a relevant political critique of late capitalist, neoliberal, class inequality that also returns to the uncanny nostalgia and excitement of one’s initial experience of ‘being caught by the sirens song’ on first finding comics and music.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
N Fine Arts > NC Drawing. Design. Illustration
Divisions: Departments > Performing Arts
Event Title: Graphic Brighton 2018
Event Location: Sussex University
Event Dates: 19th and 20th of July 2018
Depositing User: Ian Hornsby
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2018 10:16
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2018 14:36
URI: http://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/3575

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