Thursday, 5 November 2015

Recidivist Vol IV: Part One: On a Plane

You can see the cover if you squint really hard
My first reading of Recidivist vol. IV took place on a plane in September 2015 on my way to Sudbury (a small town in Northern Ontario). I hadn't read it since January and barely remembered the content or what it was about. So I would consider this as fresh a reading as possible. I didn’t listen to the record at that time as the noisy environment of the airport didn’t feel like the proper venue to truly appreciate the sounds. The droning noise of the airplane engines was sufficiently loud to create an eerie sense of disconnection with reality. The plane was about half-full and as best I could recall, mostly friendly, quiet and self-absorbed people all around. 

The world moved around me at blinding speed while I floated motionless in place...
Recidivist vol. IV was a nightmare to read. It is deliberately difficult to read and some passages can only be seen at certain angles with light hitting it just so. The elevation and shifting direction of the plane made it nearly impossible to find a proper spot to read the comic properly. It created a surreal sense of disruption in which the very environment I was hoping to engage with a work of art was actively fighting against such engagement. Every sentence read was forgotten immediately as I worked frantically to catch the next one, trying to piece together a story that includes a certain speed of thoughts and an assured line, feeling inadequate and desperate. What did that person say? What are they trying to do? What does it mean? What did they say? Reading Recidivist is a cognitive experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. 

I remember going to the Carp Fair, going into the Gravitron with my wife and her uncle and being physically challenged by the ride. The centripetal force pushing me against the wall and dragging my daydreaming mind directly to the middle of my body, relentlessly engaging every fiber of my being into this one physical experience. Recidivist felt very similar although it was more of an intellectual experience than a physical experience. My hands were trying to reconnect the pieces, shifting the book up and down to find an optimal way to see the text as my eyes scanned the text, trying to discern the characters and words contained within. My mind was struggling to string the concepts back into a coherent whole, parsing through the noise, the light and the words to make sense of the story. 

The interior of the plane is grey and blue. They're very cold colors. Blue is reminiscent of ice and cold, in particular when paired with white or grey. I wondered why they would use such cold colors for a plane. No wonder so many people dread flying. The experience is unpleasant. There's a stress factor associated with the security (How long will you have to wait? Do you have all your documents? Will you need to remove your shoes?) and for all of it's irksome trouble, the place where you'll be travelling for however many hours is cold and uninviting. It is so far removed from the way we organize our daily lives. We make our living spaces welcoming, but the plane is in many ways detached from this. It is indifferent and inhospitable, almost clinical. 

The second story in Recidivist Vol. IV shares similar colours. The story entitled Revenge is in a metallic grey and blue. While it is a story about blame and about accountability to a certain extent, it is, much like the plane, cold and unrelatable. An unknown narrator is accusing another unknown person of various ill-defined slights. Lifeless tools are scattered about and Sally focuses on them. The lack of a clearer narrative removes some of the impact of the text. We aren't sure what happened and so it is difficult to relate too much. It doesn't have the immediacy of a presence as the other stories in the book. The over-abundance of text, coupled with the unclear nature causing the revenge leaves me with this glacial feeling. It is as cold as the environment I'm sitting in. But eventually, the plane touched down and things got quieter. I put the book away until the next reading. I walked out onto the tarmac to the terminal and hopped into a cab heading towards an equally cold hotel room.

Next: Skyscraper

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