Comics & Side Projects / I&I

A pandemic summer update

I had originally planned to focus on creative work this year, but that fanciful idea has been thoroughly laid to rest for the foreseeable future. Pandemic life has exploded responsibilities in my life in ways that has made it unrecognizable to me. What were once ties of friendship and exciting commitments have transformed into a numbing cascade of crises that have become oddly mundane and familiar. As if watching something spontaneously combust and threaten to burn to cinders has become a way of daily life. As if scanning your network of friends with the mentality of an emergency responder, triaging everyone’s needs is just how one socializes these days. As if lying awake at 5 am forcibly willing every muscle fibre to relax and then realizing 10 minutes later they’ve seized up again is just what the body does. Since March, my quotidian concerns have begun to revolve around confronting injustice and death in very specific, material and urgent ways.

Amid all this, I so happened to record a podcast with Vanessa Kelly for the Word Balloon Academy program of TCAF2020, which happened entirely online. Kelly has been organizing workers in the animation industry and a lot of her observations are applicable to comics. She’s also very articulate and knowledgeable so you should definitely check out the interview!

I was also appointed to the board of directors at TCAF in the summer of 2019 and one year later, can now say it’s official since we finally got around to updating the website!

To be completely honest, I haven’t been thinking a lot about comics much, nor reading much at all. I usually have a giant stack of books on the go but these days, I’m struggling to keep up with one or two. My mind is consumed with matters regarding advocating for human rights, with organizational change and what that looks like in all the groups I’m affiliated with, questions of good governance and leadership, thinking and learning more about anti-oppression work in groups, drawing up battle plans for an uncertain future that remains hostile to those living in greater precarity. This is a huge side of my life that is fundamental to me – more foundational than art if I am to be honest. The pandemic is now bringing these two sides, personal creativity and duty to society, together in unexpected ways, although in other ways, it is driving them even further apart.

I have much more to say about that but in this blog, I’ll say that I may be a die hard introvert who prefers to spend most of her time alone (social distancing is kind of my default setting), but I do not believe that to be a responsible use of the privileges I was born with, nor would it respect my family and the teachers and groups that have invested so much in me with the expectation that I would do more with that than staying comfortable inside.

I also want to emphasize one point that has become perfectly clear to me.  I’ve seen in recent months, artists really struggling over whether their work matters, particularly if it’s not political art. I’ve also read countless tweets about how so much artistic “content” is entertaining people through a difficult time as if this is the primary justification we should have for valuing and funding art. Art is far more important than that. Art is a foundational part of culture and culture is what makes us human. What we need right now, is to not relinquish our grasp on humanity now that social distancing is isolating us and widening socioeconomic rifts like never before. I still believe we need art to show us that there is still beauty, eros and transcendence in this world and we need artists to teach us how to see it.