Drawing From The Other Side

It is high time internet memes were elevated to the place of editorial cartooning, Assistant Professor of Communications (Social Media) at Syracuse University, Jennifer Grygiel, wrote on May 17 on theconversation.com. Cartoonists are no longer in touch with the diversity of their beholders. They do not represent the diversity of today's society, just as they fail to address the lives of their beholders.

The "forget all about"-format is threadbare to say the least, and in this case internet memes and cartooning are co-existing on the internet and as such side by side - while editorial cartooning is living a precarious life in the dailies. Cartoonists are more often than not homeless in the traditional sense of cartooning, turning to (the unpaid) social media to publish their work. Here they have found new audiences and we look to the internet when we wish to see some of the best and punchiest of political cartooning in the world today.

But what is of particular interest to me in this, is Dr. Grygiel's emphasis on the democratic nature of internet memes.

Democratic in that it takes no technical skill to create them. Cartooning on the other hand means training the hand and mind through ink.

We could say that that is exactly why we need both with no need to speak of difference in quality. It is just that cartooning is not emptied by that description.

Internet memes create collages, usually from a given set of imagery at hand to which is added a one-liner. Cartooning at its best on the other hand works from the hitherto unseen even if the figurative elements are already known.

Let me give an example. The day after Dr. Grygiel's article Siri Dokken published this cartoon on social media, on those who fall through the net of our society - and it is cold on the other side:

Siri Dokken, May 18, 2019.

The fear and the pain are as indefinite as the deep into which they are disappearing. Their breath is icy visible. The sick, the elderly and the young families with children alike. The big blue endlessness is confronting our responsibility as citizens. This is our lives.

This is what art does. We may be pushed across boundaries and confronted with a danger, which would be lethal in real life. There is no photo of the net of society and if so it would be immoral to see them without their consent. A scene such as the present is not a territory for memes.

The cartoon is breaking borders, placing us literally at that beyond of the world. We are confronted with not just the scene but with our reaction. The feeling of pain, the insistence of wishing to support the mother, while realizing that the young woman on crutches is already beyond our reach. Then again, we shall never be able to reach out to them. They are not real and so we are in pain of being out of action while the shining fear of their eyes keep haunting us. There is no redemption, no mellowing. It may lead to another level of action in actual life from our need to react. We are feeling, thinking, realizing.

The democratic element of cartooning was never about its creation, but partaking in it. While memes are anonymous, cartoons are made by a specific, named artist and placed out there as their opinion. As such the cartoon is an opening for debate, never an end in itself.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Siri Dokken and must not be reproduced without her permission.

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