29 December 2010

Rumble Strip by Woodrow Phoenix

I heard and met Woodrow Phoenix at a Comica event earlier in the year and he signed a copy of Rumble Strip for me. Now the Christmas holiday has finally given me the opportunity to read it. And believe me, I have many books that have been waiting to be read for much longer than this!

I was attracted to Rumble Strip by both it's unusual construction (e.g. no visible narrator and no story as such) and by the art with its harsh depiction of the streetscape.

You get some of the sense of the artistic style from the (refreshingly honest) cover of the book with its heavily black road, contrasting road markings, some street furniture and the absence of cars and people.

Many of the pictures are even simpler that this with just the road and markings while some are a little more expansive giving us wider views of bridges, wind turbines or electricity pylons.

One of my favourite sections (there are several) is about car parks where we are treated to expanses of black marked with regimented lines that govern where we drive even when the park is empty.

I love this stuff. I'd take photos like these if I could.

The pictures show us how the car has changed our physical environment and the words expand on this theme.

We are told of the unequal physical struggle between cars and pedestrians (Cans versus Spam), the way that we respond to this by forcing pedestrians away from the streets and also of the freedom that cars give us to travel.

The message is delivered as if it was a magazine article cut up in to little sections and spread across the pages.

The example here is typical of the picture/words mix.

The words are important, and they certainly resonated with my natural disdain for cars and their impact on our environment, but for me their main purpose is to lead you through the wonderful series of pictures.

It's not a story so it's a little hard to classify, a Graphic Polemic perhaps?

It may be hard to classify but it is easier to say how I felt about reading it and I found it to be a  feast for the eyes peppered with words that made a lot of sense.

Rumble Strip is distinctly different, and that's definitely a good thing.

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