photo & text by nacrowe
YOU ARE THERE (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2009) is a KIM THOMPSON english translation of the deeply SATIRICAL FRENCH serial ICI MEME, which was a legendary 1978 collaboration between notable FRENCH illustrators JACQUES TARDI (IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES) and JEAN-CLAUDE FOREST (BARBARELLA). it is often credited with spearheading the modern EUROPEAN graphic novel movement in the 1980s.
the narrative deals with the PECULIAR protagonist ARTHUR THERE, who ODDLY lives on the INTECONNECTED walls that divide the land of his ancestors. generations before they have had it stolen by the antecedents of the current landowners and the unusual arrangement is that THERE opens the gates that give these families access to their properties. in return he charges a small toll for the effort. a consistent theme throughout includes the INTERACTION that borders on PLAY in HUMAN CONNECTION and ISOLATION. THERE by definition provides access and CONNECTION for the inhabitants of the region but he himself is situated ALONE OUTSIDE SOCIETY. he is paradoxically an inert gas as well as an enzyme at the same time, figuratively. THERE is in the middle of a lawsuit over his stolen lands which ABSURDLY finds the region caught up in a national PSYCHODRAMA/POWER STRUGGLE by a leader with low poll numbers before an ELECTION. since technically the land THERE controls is its own self-determined state, this POLITICIAN seeks to reinstate him as a ploy to rally voters to support him.
its an ABSURD plot with ABSURD characters, many of whom i am glancing over, but at the heart is a FATALISTIC, almost EXISTENTIAL, view of the FRAILTY and IMPOTENCY of humans to AFFECT CHANGE in the world. ABSTRACT concepts like DEATH, LOVE, JUSTICE, MONEY, COMMUNITY and even HEALTH are seen as distractions that dont provide meaning in a cosmos that has no rhyme or reason to it, even for a CONFUSED, HALF-MAD protagonist. the whims of HISTORY is seen as a wave that carries us all with it and we have no capacity to alter or fundamentally affect change in any meaningful manner beyond the fringes. this DIRE perspective feels incredibly OF-THE-MOMENT given the FRAIL STATE of global democracy (ala JANUARY 6TH INSURRECTION), threatened nuclear war (with RUSSIA) and the collapse of trust in the AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM given the recent DOBBS V. JACKSON WOMEN'S HEALTH ORGANIZATION decision.
i feel like THERE. i escape to my own REALITY. that is probably why i read books at the rate i do. i think its hard not read this graphic novel and think about the gatekeepers to our own INTERACTIONS with each other (SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, POLITICIANS, INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS) and their own AGENDA in that exchange.