Monday, December 31, 2018

Thirty One Days Of CCS #31: Aaron Cockle

Aaron Cockle's meditation on work, capitalism and the merging of personal and work spaces is a comic called Over Time, Every Section Had Been Allowed To Grow Accordingly. The second issue collects four more stories in this quiet but nightmarish scenario. "Walks Through Untended Orchard" is unusual because it's all figure and illustration work by Cockle (albeit with day-glo colors provided by a Risograph). Most of his strips tend to be collages of a sort or at the very least filled with text. Instead, this is a quiet moment away from everything. There's no work, no information other than the apple tree and the apple. The onomatopoeia of the "crunch" filling up an entire page is crucial, because the whole trip is an appeal to the sense unhindered by technology or the structure of work.

"Dream Sequence" is about the concessions one makes while trying to create art in a world driven by money. A team of two is filming a bootleg horror film until a "weather event" sweeps them away with a sense of almost calming inevitability. Here, everything is taken away from two people trying to work under the radar, with their impending bad end being so obvious that it's almost welcome with a smile. "Emperor Panorama" is a text/photography cut-up, mixing two different strains of text about time and place with photos bled through with a single spot color. "Anxiety Of Isolation" is the most disturbing of these stories, as it's about night shifts, loneliness and disconnection.

Andalusian Dog is a new series from Cockle, and I've read the first four issues so far. It's about a man who has a video game named after the famous Surrealist film by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. Unlike that film, which was made purely on whatever images they could think of in an effort to shock and jar the viewer with dream logic, Cockle is crafting a narrative based on paranoid logic built on hidden knowledge. The first issue finds the narrator kicked out of an apartment for mysterious reasons, but he takes the Andalusian Dog video game with him. Turns out the game is a reality emulator and creator; it can recreate spaces that it's been in long enough. The second issue ties the video game into a wider, byzantine secret society/cult surrounding versions of the game that predated the video game. Immortality, arcane knowledge and fever dream logic are all part of it as Cockle alternates text and image in the 2 x 3 panel grid on each page. It has the rhythm of a game, just as the open-page layouts of the first issue felt more like floating through free, virtual space.

The third issue is a sort of take-off on the idea of terms and conditions for owning the game, only the punishments for violating them are hilariously severe. Exile, banishment, public and private humiliation are all on the table, as the harsh text illustrates crudely-drawn diagrams. The final issue is giant block printing over old office photos; the text is frequently and deliberately obscured by the images to create dissonance and discomfort, mimicking the experience of being trapped in an office. Once again, Cockle's goal is to destabilize one's idea about corporate culture and capitalism in general by treating it as a kind of incubator of madness, a sinister form of feng shui. The game may be a key to subverting it, or it may be part of what creates it; Cockle leaves this vague. As always, his ideas discomfit the reader in a calculated but often whimsical fashion.

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