"Europe is sleeping"

Ida Felicia Noack: Plantu, February 12, 2014.

The emphasis on the contour of each feature underlines the focus on every utterance from the portrayed. Cartoonists listen through their pen, they transform on the spot what is being unfolded.

Ida Felicia Noack catching her colleagues on paper, February 12, 2014.

And so it follows that in a discussion of cartoonists, they draw each other.

Ida Felicia Noack caught Erik Petri on paper while drawing on paper panels at the back of the room when Plantu chaired a masterclass with the Danish cartoonists in Copenhagen this week. The theme of the day turned out to become BEWARE of the state of our democracy and with the very word democracy comes cartooning:

Ida Felicia Noack: Erik Petri drawing, February 12, 2014.

We have a new kind of censorship at hand, Plantu clarified. There is the vulgar one we know from Iran and, using the example of his own country, we have the hypocrite one. I need not even detail - his line of reasoning, the standpoint of editors today, not to mention the reaction from across the world and the impact of it all on the situation of the cartoonist was nailed by Erik Petri:

Erik Petri, the second panel of the day - February 12, 2014. Photo: Erik Petri.

- Europe is sleeping. Brussels is sleeping.

As Plantu stated. There is no room for critique. Everything has to be clear and plain, not causing concern that it might be misunderstood. Harmless is the word.

Syria for one has been forgotten. All we get is disinformation about Syria, while a cat in need is placed on the front page. "Sympathique, but I prefer the cat", today's editor will exclaim when presented with other options for a drawn editorial.

And so Plantu stressed: We have to tell everybody that this is the end of democracy.

While there was consensus about the state of the matter, there was an insistence on the possibility of creating a change. Claus Gade Sørensen argued that cartoonists combine news and entertainment, which give the cartoonists a space in which to operate, while Roald Als underlined that it is the job of cartoonists to create laughter. A critical one at that, if people laugh, the cartoonist will be given the front page.

Ida Felicia Noack: The host of the day, Lars Refn, with Plantu,
February 12, 2014.
Besides - while Roald was at it - Cartooning for Peace: When has cartooning ever been about peace? Cartoonists are not peace-makers. They create trouble, making us laugh in the process as a means to get heard.

And so when it came to decide on a topic to draw, it had to be the on self-censorship, and everyone sat down to find each their angle on the matter...

Is there anything as inspiring as the artistic process?

Intense silence while everybody is drawing
At first ideas are hit upon, rejected and new ones welcomed. Any ideas from someone like me are already useless. Cartooning is not illustrating verbal reasoning, but creating a meaning, including its counterpoints through radically different means.

Erik Petri at the laptop, while Jørn Villumsen is off for a moment
Then silence sets in while the first sketches are condensed. The tension is palpable, and not even broken by the sudden need to withdraw to the corners, windows or to simply stand up in order to put different perspectives onto the paper. Kierkegaard was not alone in this technique. And finally the low humming of machine power when the laptops are opened and the drawings scanned to make the final adjustments.

Rasmus Sand Høyer: Plantu, February 12, 2014.

Rasmus Sand Høyer: Maité Leon -
the gorgeous assistant of Plantu, February 12, 2014.

The drawn protagonists snapping their own portraits
Ida Noack: Plantu and Maité Leon, February 12, 2014.

And just for comparison, dialoguing through drawing, naturally:

Dialogue through drawings, Maité Leon and Plantu, February 12, 2014.

The condensation of the day as seen by Plantu:

Plantu, February 12, 2014.

And yes, Denmark is a country which houses more pigs than humans. The three monotheistic religions in powerful unison, the torture of the light from the lamp and the demands from the outside, all partake to the final outcome on the cartoonists' paper. It is the prohibition itself which makes his final image.

"Civil Strike! I will not obey a government that has lost its legitimacy"
Photo: Tony Daoud, 2013
I adore Plantu's reflection of the Danish flag in the symbol of "entrance forbidden", elegantly balanced in the three red focal points across the picture plane. The white cross of the flag is such a fixed graphic construction and seeing it reflected in this particular sign which has been a symbol of civil disobedience, not least in Syria - is a visual revelation.

So Syria offers us a way not least for the cartoonists in Europe: Much more civil disobedience!

- All drawings shown are courtesy of their cartoonists and must not be reproduced without their permission. Unless otherwise stated the photos were taken by me.

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