photo & text by nacrowe
to experience a MICHAEL DEFORGE graphic novel is to be submerged in a PHANTASMAGORIC VISION that plays within its own STRUCTURES and MECHANISMS and is visually a feast that has an INTERNAL LEXICON all its own. his graphic novel ANT COLONY (DRAWN AND QUARTERLY, 2014) is no disappointment on either front. he presents ARRESTING DEPICTIONS of GENOCIDAL VIOLENCE on a micro scale between an ANT COLONY and its local competition in PUGNACIOUS SPIDERS, AMORAL CENTIPEDES, UNAWARE HUMAN CHILDREN with magnified sunlight that is almost ZEUS-like in its arbitrary DESTRUCTIVE capacity and especially ULTRA-MILITANT RED ANTS. its a CONFRONTATIONAL VISION of life as a succession of THREATENING NEIGHBORS and the potential for WIDE-SCALE WANTON ANNIHILATION around every corner.
what is INTERESTING is how DEFORGE provides the ants with highly individualized and ANTHROPOMORPHIZED personalities with dreams and objectives, yet MYSTICAL outside forces such as pheromones ultimately govern their FATE. you cannot read this narrative and not come away with the fact that our lives are conducted under a similar thread of WIDESPREAD VIOLENCE and annihilation at the hands of a small number of politicians with access to nuclear codes and the like. all our physical and creative efforts at securing a future and providing for the next generation is just window dressing for a far more SEEDY and UNSTEADY REALPOLITIK that is churning just outside of our VISION that is constantly in TENSION and never not at play.
the DEFORGE visuals are so BIZARRE and so EVOCATIVE that there is a certain VIOLENCE against our own senses of BEAUTY that is under attack when taking in and sussing out the narrative. id argue that the illustrations are so confrontationally VIVID that they effectively endear the story with a PALPABLE REALISM and AUTHENTICITY that is seemingly counterintuitive on paper. it should take you out of the narrative but it draws you further in. i very much feel it is quite an achievement that has MORAL IMPLICATIONS beyond one's sense of AESTHETICS. it makes that graphic novel have a sense of MORAL WEIGHT and GRAVITY, as if these warring tribes whose JARRING sense of INSATIABLE BLOODLUST is normal and justified by their very nature as SMALL INSECTS. the MORAL IMPLICATIONS to our own sense of justification around STATE VIOLENCE is STAGGERING and ultimately UNSETTLING.
i cant wait to seek out more of his catalogue. i am intrigued by how DISCONCERTING the experience of reading ANT COLONY was for my personal sense of individuality. i want more! definitely worth checking out.