This particular post comes out of the discussion of absence (albeit a very different kind of absence) in the CTRL Space readings,as well as Bryn’s use of a comic strip to illustrate issues of surveillance. (I.E., if you don’t like this, blame Bryn.)
I come from a fairly literature-oriented background, so it’s probably expected that one of the things that came to my mind in the discussion of the gaze is the gaze of the reader. I think that in a lot of ways, it’s similar to the sort of surveillance we’re talking about. And I think this similarity is brought out through one webcomic in particular: Garfield minus Garfield.
For those not already familiar with the strip and too lazy to click on the link, the idea is that Dan Walsh takes Garfield strips featuring Jon and Garfield, and removes any presence of Garfield from them. The erasure changes the tone of the comic considerably, and it’s why that should be that interests me. Most of the strips in their original form didn’t actually depict Jon and his pet interacting; they showed Jon going about his daily life (which admittedly involved occasionally performing for his feline audience), while Garfield comments, in the invisible form of a pet.
A lot of the humour of the original strip comes out of the fact that Jon doesn’t know Garfield has the mental acuity to make these observations, which in a sense makes Garfield an unobserved observer. It also makes Garfield a mediator between the reader and Jon, and a collaborator with the audience. It’s ok to laugh at Jon, and to observe him, because someone else is already doing that. By stripping Garfield away, we lose that cushioning layer–it’s just the reader gazing at a severely depressed man.
I could go on, (believe me, I could go on) but I’ll just raise a few more issues, and anyone who feels like elaborating can do so. I think the comic strip is well suited for the investigation of the reader’s gaze, since it is more visual than other forms of text, and it allows us, in some cases, an unsurpassed level of surveillance: we can see the character’s thoughts. And connecting our other discussions of animals, it’s interesting how, beyond just Jon, people tend to use animals, particularly pets, as a form (substitute?) for being gazed at. And at a less surveillance-level, but connecting to the discussion today, as an analogue to the “is it art?”: is what way is Dan Walsh an author in the composition of Garfield minus Garfield?
I was either going to post on this, or on surveillance in children’s books: the evil stepmother’s mirror vs. Glinda the Good’s Great Book of Records, which records the actions of everyone in Oz. I’ll let you decide which would have been a better choice.