Toronto Research Group: Photo Fumetti

Marilyn Westlake 'NARY-A-TIFF'

Marilyn Westlake 'NARY-A-TIFF'

From the wikipedia entry for Fumetti we have:

In the Italian language, fumetti are all comics, not just photo novels (fumetti literally means “little clouds of smoke”, in reference to speech balloons). Instead, Italians call photo-illustrated comics fotoromanzi. Fumetti are also popular in Spain and Latin America, where they are called fotonovelas, and in France. Fumetti have never been widely appreciated in the United States.

I didn’t realize the term had been exapted for general usage in the US for “photo-comics.” Anyway, I was just reading Marilyn Westlake‘s photo-comic, NARY-A-TIFF, in the vol. 2/no. 3, 1982 (the special “violence” theme) issue of Rampike and thought I’d do a little research on the history of photo-comics. Obviously, I’ve enjoyed Phoebe Gloeckner‘s work and the occasion silliness found in, say, Wizard Magazine (and I suppose I need to re-post my Adventures of Chinese Bizarro Spider-Man).

Lots of bizarre comics to be found in the Rampike magazine-which is understandable, given the “mission statement” of the publication:

Rampike is a forum for post-modern artistic and literary expression within a thematic format. Photo-copies of written submissions are welcome. Rampike is not responsible for the return of texts or photographs. Rampike is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and by private sources. We would like to extend our special thanks to the Lewis Johnstone Gallery (London).

And with a contributor list (in this particular issue) that includes: Joseph Beuys; Dennis Oppenheim; William Burroughs; Vito Acconci; Nicole Brossard; b.p. nichol; Jupiter Larsen; Toronto Research Group; and the People’s Republic of Poetry amongst many other experimental poets, post-structuralists and performance artists, this is one publication I would love to get more back issues of (I have only a handful right now).

This issue of Rampike actually credits Toronto Research Group in the index as the “author” of Photo Fumetti. This brings out an interesting dimension to issues of authorship. Were Nichol and McCaffery the “script-writers” with Westlake playing a documentary role? Or was Westlake the “artist” with TRG the subject (as well as being the ostensible authors)? As you can see from the image (I hope it scanned well enough) the piece is “written by & starring The Toronto Research Group” and “directed & photographed by Marilyn Westlake.” The text in the word balloons contain obvious references to Nichol and McCaffery’s collaborative work as TRG, but that could just as easily have been added by anyone familiar with their oeuvre.

In a publication like Rampike I wouldn’t be surprised if issues of authorship are intentionally misleading. In the end, I suppose it hardly matters.