On Image Nihilism
GRIMES: The Residents are possibly the most immediately definitive example of concealing identity while creating art in public view. No one, likely, can beat them for duration of same, but here are a couple of other favorite examples of self-diminishment–
In the film, Bedazzled (1967), the late, great Peter Cook, playing a right lovable Devil of a liar, variously manifests in burger-flipping schlub Dudley Moore’s downspiral of wishes, to undermine and steal away his soul. Besides my other favourite segments–the ‘Froony Green Eyewash’ men, the animated flies, and Barry Humphries as ‘Envy’— I try never to miss Cook’s usurping, ultra-blase’ rock ‘star’. As “Drimble Wedge & The Vegetations”, he and his group lay out the ultimate un-Siren ‘song’, inexplicably driving all the young Mods mad with completely unrequited desire.
With a total, lugubrious deadpan, Cook, in the midst of reactive waves of ecstatic fan excess, undertones: “Just go away.” …“Leave me alone.” …“I don’t want you.” …“I don’t need you.” … and, “Don’t you ever leave off?”.
In comics, my other favorite (or at least frequent, mental touchstone) example of the ultimate in unimagery is by way of the dubious talents of Chester Gould’s lazily entrepreneurial ‘cartoonist’ character, Vera Alldid. [He later became B. O. Plenty’s son-in-law]. And his ‘comic strip’, The Invisible Tribe, which used nothing at all but empty boxes and some very lame (and unnecessary, save for the arbitrary title) Indian ‘jokes’.
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This ‘snowman in a blizzard’ sanctification of lackadaisicality was Chester’s ‘wry’ topper to his own former Sawdust (also within Dick Tracy), which used nothing more than talking ink specks as the ‘characters’. ‘And each one is unique’.
Not only that—this latter great work required the slavish effort of a string of assistants, (who sometimes used Moon Maid’s gags), all seated at the same art board. A take-off on Gould’s, (and other’s, like Walt Kelly’s), disappointing-to-learn, tho’ perhaps necessary dependence on same.
As I recall, Vera did his barefaced contribution to huminanity all by himself, the bold cuss.
Obviously, with space limited (even in the good ol’ days of thirdsies on a Sunday page), it made for a good choice for a strip-within-a-strip.
And short of having L-shaped border corners that trail off the comic page and contain no balloons ‘to speak of ‘, I don’t see how anyone of a minimalist inclination, could top it.
Even Samuel Beckett’s ideas for ‘Nancy’, sent to Ernie Bushmiller (1952-’53), were more replete.
— RG (April 25, 2009) +5/20/’015