This is the second, and last part, of Arnoud Rommens esay ‘Deep’ Time in Times of Precarity: Experimental Comics as ‘Dark Matter’. In this edition wee only publish the section regarding the book Meteorologies.

What this poeticization of informational imagery means is unclear: All we can do is offer reading hypotheses. Perhaps Conefrey’s comic is a post-apocalyptic polyphony, confronting us with abstract, speculative landscapes handed down to us from a barren future in which all decoders have become extinct. Perhaps the panels are snapshots of future storms raging for centuries, like those on a lifeless planet like Jupiter, showing the precarity of our current ‘home.’

Whatever we think we understand, what cannot be ignored are the fluctuations in energy of the drawing hand—the ductus, the marks of the graphiator. Not starting from sketches or pencil drawings, the lines are the ‘score’ of improvisations—a ‘jam session’—set directly to ink. Changes in pressure applied to the surface—alternating ‘high’ and ‘low pressure areas’—reveal different moods. The volatility of drawing is further underscored by the fact that they are housed in digitally-drawn panels. The precise, digital lines of the panels contrast with the gesturality that speaks from the ‘wind-choreographies.’

Moreover, the comic is not just the appropriation of a vast databank of scientific imagery. The more angular “Small Worlds” chapter is an appropriation of Vasily Kandinsky’s portfolio Kleine Welten (1922) to the medium of drawing and comics. Although not intended as such by the artist, I see this as a tactical move. As the ‘graphic novelisation’ of a series of artworks by one of the main figures in the history of abstraction, it makes us conscious of the cultural hierarchies that organise cultural institutions. Rather than relegate Kandinsky to the safety of the museum, Conefrey revives his work by taking it as the basis for his visual research. In doing so, Meteorologies emblematises what artist and critic Gregory Sholette has dubbed “dark matter.” Given the comic’s suggestions of a ‘deep,’ cosmic timescale, it seems an apt heuristic metaphor.

As Sholette explains, Astrophysicists describe dark matter (and dark energy) as forming an invisible mass predicted by the big bang theory, yet so far only perceived indirectly by observing the motions of visible, astronomical objects such as stars and galaxies. (…) The gravitational presence of this unseen force presumably keeps the universe from flying apart. (…) Like its astronomical cousin, creative dark matter also makes up the bulk of the artistic activity produced in our post-industrial society. However, this type of dark matter is invisible primarily to those who lay claim to the management and interpretation of culture—the critics, art historians, collectors, dealers, museums, curators, and arts administrators. It includes makeshift, amateur, informal, unofficial, autonomous, activist, non-institutional, self-organized practices—all work made and circulated in the shadows of the formal art world, some of which might be said to emulate cultural dark matter by rejecting art world demands of visibility, and much of which has no choice but to be invisible. While astrophysicists are eager to know what dark matter is, the denizens of the art world largely ignore the unseen accretion of creativity they nevertheless remain dependent upon.

Reading Meteorologies, one could ask the question how much official art owes to comics. Conefrey’s adaptation reveals that Kandinsky’s status is secure within official cultural, as he is a model to be emulated. At the same time, when read as ‘dark matter,’ the comic shows how valuation is arbitrary, how the selection of the few geniuses depends on a multitude of ‘failed’ artists, ‘Sunday painters,’ or artists who deliberately choose circuits of distribution and production outside the institutional frame. At the same time, Meteorologies makes Kandinsky part of the commons, taking him out of a museal context and the hands of the custodians of culture to offer us a counter-Kandinsky, as it were: it offers us a non-academic, more prosaic Kandinsky occasioning playful visual research. As such, the dominant narrative in art history as well as the concept of the Anthropocene and its growing academic discursive output are refashioned into ‘low theory,’ in a semi-autonomous practice. The format of the book is already indicative: originally drawn in a small, 14×9 cm Moleskine sketchbook, the pages were subsequently scanned into a slightly larger format while post-production work was done with widely available image processing software. Meteorologies is a visual theory of the cosmos in small press.

Additionally, as ‘dark matter,’ Conefrey’s comic questions the hierarchy and institutionalisation of comics as a legitimate, sometimes even prestigious cultural expression and the canon-formation that accompanies its entry into academia. Referring to the Anglophone context, Pedro Moura makes the following observation: Art Spiegelman famously complained that comics were ‘below the critical radar,’ but this has changed over the past twenty to thirty years. However, it is my contention that the ‘radar’ has excluded works that could be called ‘experimental.’ It is telling that Hillary Chute, in her article on ‘Graphic Narrative’ in The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature, discusses many of the usual suspects—Spiegelman, Ware, Bechdel, Barry—without paying attention to more ground-breaking, category-defying work.

It is perhaps only now that we can speak of ‘dark matter’ in the world of comics. Indeed, to what degree do contemporary comics ‘masterpieces’ depend on the exclusion of ‘lesser’works, on more radical experiments sidelined precisely because they do not fit with the emerging model of what worthwhile comics are supposed to look like?


Ao passarem na Rua Tomás da Anunciação 26B (em Campo de Ourique, Lisboa) e descendo por uns pequenos degraus, entram na livraria Baobá onde podem encontrar livros ilustrados (incluindo banda desenhada) de muita qualidade (nacionais ou estrangeiros) comos os da editora independente Tara Books (India) que publica livros artesanais: «We’re particularly well-known for our screenprinted books made entirely by hand—from the paper to the printing and binding.»
Vale a pena ver mais em: https://tarabooks.com/about/
Documentário sobre «The cloth of the mother goddes»: https://vimeo.com/134023188

Nesta livraria também se encontra à venda a edição numerada, e com uma constelação original desenhada no livro, de Maria João Worm L’Orso Borotalco e la Bambola Nuda Italiana. Assim como um print da página desdobrável deste livro ou uma amostra do cubo O Amor Perfeito já montado.

O arco da noite branca. Diniz Conefrey.

ACME, 888 pages. Collection Ecritures (10/05/2019).

Le 5e couche: https://5c.be/5c_catalogue.html

«Ceci n’est pas un livre sur la bande dessinée abstraite. La conjonction et dans Bande dessinée et abstraction est fondamentale. Elle signale notre intention d’explorer l’entre-deux en combinant ce qui d’emblée pourrait sembler hétérogène : des bandes dessinées aux esthétiques nettement différentes, des textes usant de perspectives clairement distinctes. Le et est un moyen de rencontre et, dans ce cas, il désigne une interaction entre bande dessinée et abstraction telle que les deux en sortent mutuellement refigurés. Ce principe de montage entend ouvrir à la fois le concept d’« abstraction » et celui de « bande dessinée » en desserrant l’étau de leurs définitions canoniques qui, globalement, calquent l’abstraction sur le non-mimétique (en histoire de l’art) ou l’utilisent pour désigner un mouvement conceptuel allant du particulier à l’universel, alors que la bande dessinée est, elle, généralement perçue comme un médium texte-image de narration séquentielle. En réfractant l’abstraction à travers la bande dessinée et vice versa, une multiplicité d’autres termes se trouvent ainsi convoqués d’une telle manière que les deux termes sont infléchis par des distinctions opératoires supplémentaires. Idéalement, Bande dessinée et abstraction cherche donc à offrir un lieu de rencontre entre culture savante et populaire ; histoire de l’art et recherche en bande dessinée ; littérature, poésie, dessin et écriture ; art majeur et art mineur ; highbrow, lowbrow, nobrow, etc.»


Esta chancela editorial de Lisboa ganhou forma com a edição do livro Os Animais Domésticos, em 2011, logo após a edição de Electrodomésticos Classificados. A linha editorial da Quarto de Jade deriva da articulação entre a palavra e a imagem. Nesse sentido tem realizado as suas edições em duas vertentes: O livro como objecto e a  narrativa gráfica, sendo que ambas as abordagens emergem de um sentido poético.

Maria João Worm

A consciência do tempo levou-me ao cinema de animação na Escola António Arroio, depois fiz um curso técnico/profissional de cerâmica. De escultura no Porto transferi-me para pintura na Faculdade de Belas Artes em Lisboa. Colaborei em  revistas, livros e jornais, publicando ilustrações e narrativas gráficas. Tenho usado a técnica de linogravura e para mim é um encontro feliz entre escultura e pintura. Das exposições de pintura e gravura destaco A colecção particular de “A” em 2006 na galeria Monumental e A Fonte das Palavras em 2013 na Casa das Histórias Paula Rego. Em 2011 recebi o Prémio Nacional de Ilustração, com o livro Os Animais Domésticos, edições Quarto de Jade.

Diniz Conefrey

Poeta e ilustrador lisboeta que tem na Cidade do México uma morada sentimental. Adicionou à formação autodidacta o curso de desenho, na Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes. Desde à vários anos que publica em jornais, revistas e editoras a par de ter efectuado alguns cursos de formação.  Além das exposições que incluíram os seus originais, tanto em Portugal como na Bélgica, Brasil e França, foi bolseiro do Estado mexicano em 2005, 2007 e 2015. Criou, com Maria João Worm, a chancela Quarto de Jade onde edita alguns livros da sua autoria.





As edições Quarto de Jade têm um novo título: Planície Pintada, livro de narrativa gráfica que inclui quatro textos provenientes de etnias indígenas da América do Norte. As adaptações tiveram como base diversas versões publicadas, tanto em português como em inglês, sujeitas à interpretação dos autores. Diniz Conefrey e Maria João Worm reuniram estes relatos de forma a expressar várias modalidades temáticas; uma narrativa mítica, um sonho, uma história do quotidiano, finalizando com o discurso de Seathl (elaborado inicialmente pelo Dr Henry A. Smith). Este livro tem um formato de 19 x 27 cm, incluindo 96 páginas, e está disponível na loja do site Quarto de Jade.

Árvore Tília.

Alce Negro Sonha.

A Sabedoria.


This post is part of Aarnoud Rommens essay «‘Deep’ Time in Times of Precarity: Experimental Comics as ‘Dark Matter’». In this editing we only publish the section regarding the book Meteorologies, without the notes included in the original text, and it will be presented divided in two parts.

Diniz Conefrey’s Meteorologies is an abstract comic in small format published in 2016, in limited print run, issued by the author’s minor, independent Portuguese publishing house. The comic consists of four stories or episodes, with the titles “Membrana Fóssil” (Fossil Membrane), “Pequenos Mundos” (Small Worlds), “A Matéria do Vento” (Wind Substance), and “Tornado a Casa” (Home Tornado). Though wordless, the comic uses common narrative techniques while evacuating recognisable shapes and figures. Yet, this does not mean that Meteorologies does not tell a story. Like other abstract comics, it can be read as a reflection on the medium itself, as a “formal drama” as Andrei Molotiu puts it in the introduction to the anthology Abstract Comics: “Panel rhythm, page layout, the sequential potential of colour and the panel-to-panel play of abstract shapes have all been exploited to create potent formal dramas and narrative arcs.” This certainly holds for Meteorologies. Furthermore, the comic couples the architecture of panel and page breakdown with distinctive changes in drawing styles to reflect on time and rhythm. The shifting style of the drawings, the panel sequencing, and page layout occasion a reflection on multiple, interwoven temporalities: the duration and varying cadences of reading, the speed, and intensities of drawing, as well as the relation between historical, human-scale time and deep, anti-human, geological time.

Except for the three-panel pages in the opening story “Fossil Membrane,” the individual pages establish a regular two-step beat. In fact, the facing pages are like a large white ground against which four smaller canvasses are placed, thus making the 4-step beat into the ground cadence of the comic. Seemingly ending in a ‘fade-out,’ Meteorologies invites us to read left to right, end to beginning, downside-up, transversally, back to front, and so on, as each image seems to echo the other. The sequentiality typical of alphanumerical decoding — the way one usually reads comics — contends with the modularity of serial recombination occasioned by visual motifs. Meteorologies is expressly presented as a constellation of images.

Throughout the comic there are conspicuous shifts in pacing. At specific intervals, the drawings overflow their grid-cell, expanding and contracting, slowing down and accelerating. Such moments of intensity break up the flow, but calm is eventually restored in a sea of white, the blank page. Meteorologies thus explores the intimacy of reading time whose duration is unpredictable given the resistance abstraction poses to legibility. But it is this resistance that makes the comic so interesting. Its images a kind of Rorschach test, the comic sets loose the demon of visual analogy through its associative potential. Of course, the titles push the associative logic in a certain direction: Meteorologies, “Fossil Membrane,” “Small Worlds,” “Wind Substance,” and “Home Tornado” belong to acertain register that makes the chain of associations less arbitrary. Like words in a poem, they invite the daemon of analogy, leading to infinite visual-verbal associations. Furthermore, this also ensures that the comic is not just a self-reflexive work, a style exercise. It also speaks directly to our historical moment.

The drawings conjure up scientific imagery, intimating a link with — amongst many others — geology, climate maps, microscopy, palaeontology, stratigraphy, sound waves, billowing clouds, blood circulation, seismographic records or even the million years old, inhuman beauty of mineral stones, as explored by Roger Caillois in The Writing of Stones, for instance. The comic appropriates the plethora of today’s “informational images” circulating in mass media, touching on the fields of bio-technology, medicine, astronomy, climate maps and charts indicating climate change, the weather report, and so on. As such, Meteorologies embeds itself in the history of scientific imagery, those images not studied in art history and usually not read in aesthetic terms, but which nonetheless constitute a vast quantity in overall image production. Similarly, Meteorologies inscribes itself in discussions of the Anthropocene, whose visual rhetoric depends on these kinds of images as proof to command belief. The work is radically anti-human: there are no characters, the temporal and spatial coordinates where the ‘story’ unfolds are unfathomable. If Meteorologies is a mapping, it might map on the microscopic as well as the astronomical scale.


William Hogarth, Four Stages of Cruelty, 1751.

“Arte sequencial” é um conceito puramente axiomático que apreende, de forma óbvia, características importantes da banda desenhada moderna, na época das máquinas de registo sequencial, mas não nos ajuda a entender o início, por volta de 1900, de um palco audiovisual em papel. A mudança não pode ser abreviada por alguns axiomas formais. Para a entender teremos que considerar as raízes profundas da cultura gráfica e a tradição da comédia, assim como factores puramente circunstanciais, como o contexto peculiar das guerras de audiência entre jornais de grande tiragem.

Durante um curto período, por volta de 1900, a produção era ditada exclusivamente pela necessidade de optimizar o impacto comercial dos suplementos cómicos. Confiando na tentativa e erro, assim como na lógica de atracção, os artistas que nesse tempo trabalhavam para a imprensa, Pulitzer ou Hearst, compilavam um “pacote” de correntes com traços heterogéneos (“engraçadinho”, a travessura maliciosa, personagens em série, o balão de fala, a grelha repetitiva) em que cada um tinha o seu pedigree cultural peculiar e a sua razão de ser da época (em particular como reposta à popularização dos instrumentos de registo sequencial, como o cinema e o fonógrafo). A forma barbárica que resultou deste período de afunilamento (mais ou menos, entre 1896 e 1905) provaria mais tarde ser extremamente robusta e produtiva, num século abundante de novos meios audiovisuais (rádio, filmes sonoros, televisão). Nas décadas seguintes, no entanto, a imprensa popular manteve-se como o ambiente vital da banda desenhada. Após o episódio inicial de “anarquismo jubiloso”, um longo período de institucionalização seguiu-se, durante o qual a estrutura de “funny people” teve um papel decisivo no sucesso comercial e na circulação de jornais norte-americanos.

José Muñoz e Carlos Sampaio, Cheryl, Mon Trésor, 1988.

A resiliência da banda desenhada no século vinte, a sua capacidade de se adaptar e inovar num mundo dos media, cada vez mais envolvente, não pode ser explicada apenas pela transição, em 1900, que assistiu ao palco de um audiovisual em papel. Para entender o dinamismo interno da forma, e todo o seu potencial, temos que reconhecer a sua profunda continuidade cultural com a tradição da narrativa gráfica do século XVIII e XIX, e a sua capacidade performativa como um laboratório semiótico poderoso. Personagens que se impunham, parecendo falar e actuar por eles próprios, podem ter invadido o “palco de audio-visual em papel”, mas faria sempre parte do seu charme e magia a maquinação presente feita de um dispositivo irónico, reflexivo e digressivo, cujas raízes remontavam aos romances cómicos experimentais do século XVIII. Os paineis colapsando de Little Nemo, assim como a interacção de McCay com a Gertie animada, revela uma profunda corrente submersa na tradição dos comic’s, mostrando um impulso tipicamente barroco para rasgar o enquadramento, cativando o espectador para um mundo labiríntico de saudosa ilusão. (Ndalianis, 2004)

No período romântico e vitoriano, o autor de narrativas gráficas era um intérprete poligráfico que respondia a todas as “novas maneiras de ver”, com estilizações e esquematizações engenhosas. Este tipo de trabalho descritivo é uma parte significativa do trabalho criativo do autor, especialmente na forma moderna do romance gráfico, estreitamente conectado com a mesma riqueza de nexos que apresentavam as soluções gráficas forjadas no século XIX.

Thierry Smolderen. The Origins of Comics – from William Hogarth to Windsor MacCay. The University Press of Mississippi, 2014.