french connection

Suicide Alley
 

I couldn’t yet find the full Gibson-interview or a copy of the October 1992 issue of “Details” magazine—where the quote I preyed on for feedback stems from—but The Blade Runner FAQ helped out and furnished one more paragraph:
 

Years later, I was having lunch with Ridley [Scott], and when the conversation turned to inspiration, we were both very clear about our debt to the ↑Metal Hurlant [the original ↑Heavy Metal magazine] school of the ’70s—↑Moebius and the others. But it was also obvious that Scott understood the importance of information density to perceptual overload. When Blade Runner works best, it induces a lyrical sort of information sickness, that quintessentially postmodern cocktail of ecstasy and dread. It was what cyberpunk was supposed to be all about.

Pushing into the same direction Gibson wrote in his introduction to the graphic novel adaptation of “Neuromancer”:
 

So it’s entirely fair to say, and I’ve said it before, that the way Neuromancer-the-novel “looks” was influenced in large part by some of the artwork I saw in ‘Heavy Metal’. I assume that this must also be true of John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from New York’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner'”, and all other artefacts of the style sometimes dubbed ‘cyberpunk’. Those French guys, they got their end in early.

It’s rearrange and remix. Or, as artist and illustrator Jim Burns—who, like Syd Mead, worked for “Blade Runner” as well—once put it: “Knowing where from and how …” Burns collects all kinds of pictures that strike him. When sifting through glossy magazines while waiting at the dentist’s he now and then rips out a page and pockets it. Maybe an advertisement, a photography, a drawing, whatever. Back at home he files it away in an according cabinet. But way more important: a small scrap of memory is filed away in his mind. There it sits and maybe someday will react or even fuse with another slice of thought. A similar principle is at work within cyberculture, ideas and topoi reflected and re-/produced in cyberpunk are modified, recreated, and added upon. But remixing, tinkering, bricolage, etc. are concepts too weak to grasp the phenomena in question in a way that allows anthropological building of theory. Again I have to voice my opinion that the concept of sociocultural appropriation is the appropriate tool. In terms of theory this concept lies on a more abstract, higher level—and remixing et al. are incorporated within appropriation.
 

Above all that there is more in this quotes for me. I guess I have to relate my associations, because the tesserae again are falling into place. My dear colleague Frank since years patiently teaches the students in his Anthro 101 lectures that anthropological fieldwork always is PPP: political, professional, and personal. Taking up, interpreting, and discussing current and relevant issues always generates political implications, and—despite of all the personal involvement—an anthropologist always has to struggle to remain professional, or he/she/it ceases to be an anthropologist. Nevertheless there is a dire need for the anthropologist to become conscious of the own involvement and entanglement with the field, its aspects and history. Fulfilling the demands formulated within the writing-culture debate and its succesors, I try to make my personal entanglement as transparent as possible.
 

Frankly, I was raised on comics/graphic novels. It all began in the early 1970s when, before I went to school, I learned how to read by means of “Asterix”, “Lucky Luke”, and “Donald Duck”. The former two being of French origin. The fascination with graphic novels never dwindled and during the following two decades I amassed a vast collection. Quite early on I developed the firm wish and plan to become a comic book artist. I never became a comic book artist, but, immediately following school, I worked in the industry as an illustrator for one year. Then my path zigzagged till I hit sociocultural anthropology wherein I somehow got stuck ;-)
 

During the ’70s the sale of comics in Germany was dominated by Disney-products, Marvel and DC superhero-comics, and the two mentioned French series. But “Tintin” for example was hard to get. All that changed dramatically with the advent of the 1980s. Suddenly the larger bookstores had regular comics departments filled to the brim with a formidable diversity of styles—finally graphic novels for an adult readership, too—an enormously literate and in parts quite intellectual fan scene emerged and became visible, fanzines were published and so on. What had happened was that la culture des bandes-dessinée had swashed over from France to Germany like a tidal wave. The positive side effect for me was that I now could lay hands on the amazing material almost every day and did no more have to wait for the occassional holiday spent in France. And I laid my hands on, bought what my budget permitted, and spent countless hours in the bookstores.
 

In those times, when I as a teenager had to defend the case of comics against the “adults”, I always pulled Moebius’ “Incal”-series out of the hat and told the story of suicide alley [see picture above]. A Metropolis-style highway, suspended in the heights of the megacity, inside the story famous for its Lemmings-effect. Whenever an individual jumps or falls from it a strange psychosocial effect kicks in and countless people immediately decide to leap off as well, and do so. A beautiful metaphor for society’s rotten and morbid psychological state. Noir-humour social critique cyberpunk-style. Not only the visuals of the “Incal”-series and other stories by Moebius are cyberpunkesque, as Gibson noted, but subjects, style, and dramaturgy, too. And more. When I first learned of the art of rocketjumping within Q3A, that graphic novel come alive, I was reminded of a scene in “The Black Incal” by Moebius aka Jean Giraud and Alexandro Jodorowsky (↵Jodorowsky, Moebius & Chaland 1981), where a character uses the shockwave of an explosion to expertly fly through the city [see ↵piling up]. All in all it of course is an instance of appropriation by mastership—both in the graphic novel’s story and in respect to the gaming practice. But not only the French had “got their end in early”, but the Italians as well. “RanXerox” by Tamburini and Liberatore [already mentioned in ↵zeiss ikon eyes, pics there] gives ample proof of that. See sin spirit for more of my thoughts on the comic connection.
 

All this amazing material, into which I myself dived head-first, together with items from e.g. the United States, like the work of Richard Corben, came together in the French magazine “Métal Hurlant”, respectively its US and German versions “Heavy Metal” and “Schwermetall”, thus experienceing a transcontinental diffusion. Those magazines I collected, digested, and absorbed, which made me the spoiled cyberbrat I am today. And now I understand why I became so fond of “Blade Runner” and cyberpunk in general. It’s them feedbackloops running havoc in “The Fifth Element”.
 

Now, why am I merrily babbling away on all that? Earlier this year, in February, I delivered a genuinely bad and miserably prepared speech on “gamemodding as cultural appropriation” in Cologne. As an opening to the discussion Christoph Brumann said that there was not much left of cultural relativism in my presentation. Rather he had the impression, so he said, that I was speaking for and defending “my tribe”. And it is true that since I started working on this project, piece by piece everything flushed back, graphic novels, cyberpunk, and all. So, for evaluating all my stuff here, biographical glimpses like the above one are necessary, I think.

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