Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2dcloud: Blaise Larmee

Following up on my recent Minnesota post, let's take a look at one of Minneapolis's finest: 2dcloud. The publisher, Raighne Hogan, is a cartoonist in his own right, but he's made a splash thanks to his willingness to take risks with avant garde, eccentric and boundary-pushing comics. Hogan's put interesting work back in print, printed the work of locals, given homes to more-widely read cartoonists who needed a new publisher, published the work of emerging cartoonists and he's even gone the international route. At the moment, 2dcloud is running a kickstarter in an effort to support publishing some pretty remarkable books. Here are some reviews of releases from the past couple of years.

Ice Cream Kisses and Comets Comets, by Blaise Larmee. I've been following Larmee's career since his earliest minicomics to his most recent books. Despite his frequent online forays into deliberately provocative, Dada/Situationist-style culture-jamming, Larmee is an artist who has consistently been 100% committed to whatever he's writing about. In some cases, like Young Lions, his stories were about concepts like erasure and the nature of relationships and art scenes, which was a bit of an ouroboros. In Ice Cream Kisses, Larmee instead explores sexual longing and fantasy. The structure of the book is an extended Skype session between a young man and a young woman, in which we hear the fantasies of the man and see them played out on the page by Larmee. It is important to distinguish between fantasy and reality here, No one actually has sex in the story, other than masturbation. The images we see are fuzzy, even if they are explicit. In many respects, they represent images in the man's mind. Another interesting thing about the book is that we only hear the man's perspective in all of this; Larmee does not allow the reader to hear anything the woman has to think or say. In that sense, the intimacy portrayed here is as imaginary as the sex itself, and the dialogue is deliberately coarse. There is some affection proffered, but this is an extended look at lust and the ways in which levels of separation both heighten and frustrate that lust. The result is a 122-page shaggy dog sex joke without a punchline, which was designed to put the reader through that same experience of unquenchable arousal and fantasy as the narrator. It's an in-between state, a limbo state, and so the end in many ways was as arbitrary as the beginning. Larmee could have accomplished roughly the same thing in a hundred less pages, but that would defeat the purpose of the experience for the narrator, for the reader and perhaps for Larmee himself.

Comets Comets is a mini drawn by Larmee in his Young Lions/C.F. style, featuring an interview conducted by an unnamed  young woman and "celebrity artist couple" Hall Hassi and Davidson Middle. Not surprisingly, it's an imaginary interview with imaginary artists who discuss their imaginary careers using celebrity in conjunction with feminism, using tools like webcams to disseminate their work far and wide. Larmee deliberately uses heavy colors to obscure some of the lettering in the comic, refusing to grant the reader the privilege of knowing all that was said among the three characters. Hassi is an extended internet creation of Larmee's, who loves playing with the concepts of identity, fame and creation in an internet world where fame is arbitrary and viral, identity can shift or easily be hidden and manipulated, and repurposing art and images is more rampant now than ever. Like I said, when Larmee commits, he really commits, and he never breaks character in either comic.

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