Exercises in Graphic Novels

Exercises in Style was written by Raymond Queneau after years of writing the same inconsequential story of a confrontation on a bus and a chance second encounter in different styles. From blurbs to police reports, removing certain letters, and using only onomatopoeia, he ended up with 99 of them.

Matt Madden, inspired by Queneau, did the same thing with graphic novels. Taking the same inconsequential story and illustrating it in 99 different styles, from newspaper humour, to film noir, to monologue, to switching round the images.

(edit: I was recently asked to take part in a film work of the same nature, curse Vimeo's lack of email updates as I would have done it. 28/04/11)

Raymond Queneau starts it all off...

Raymond Queneau famously kicked off the Oulipo with his Hundred Thousand Billion Poems. This set of ten sonnets had each of it's 14 lines divided up such that there were 100,000,000,000,000 different possible poems. Each line has the same rhyming scheme and the same rhyming sounds so they can be arranged in any combination. Pretty groovy.

You can find a link to an interactive, online and exciting version here. Each possible combination even has a serial number. This is an exciting way to use the internet to completely destoy the romance of a beautiful piece of well-considered and written work.

Three books relating to the Oulipo

Inspired Oulipo;

Raymond Roussell's Locus Solus takes it's name from the Latin for lost souls and is basically a series of descriptions of the inventions and experiments of a genius named Canterel, who leads a tour of his estate, called Locus Solus. The original was in French so the translation at times can be a little difficult to gain context with but it's basically a series of intricately detailed, surreal descriptions. From a hot air balloon that reacts exactly to sunlight to make a mosaic out of teeth, to a cat that races sea horses round a giant tank while an opera singer dances and discusses politics with an apparently living head, to the re-enactment of scenes from the lives of the dead. Played by the character's re-animated cadavers. I had to read it very slowly as it's easy to lose track. It follows a very French style of the time of describing a situation (or in this case invention or experiment) then how and why it works, then how that came about, and the story behind it. Rather than a more English style of revealing motives, methods then results.

Vital Oulipo:

Linking Locus Solus to the last book is the rather clever A Void by George Perec. The point of this novel is it's written entirely without the letter 'e' (or 'a' in the original French), making it a Lipogram. It's easy just to read through it scanning for the erstwhile vowel. But this is entirely the wrong method. Perec wrote it as if the letter itself never existed, rather than just excluding it. You almost have to forget about the errant 'e's in order to get into it. The plot basically follows a group of friends searching for their missing companion, Anton Vowel, who himself was onto the idea that something was missing, the thing he dubbed 'A Void'. It's written similarly to Locus Solus, with a similar storytelling-method but manages to cut away the huge amount of detail that saturated Roussell's work. And it actually has a plot, Meyer-lovers..

Inspired by the Oulipo:

The third, also a lipogram, is Ella Minnow Pea. This one was written in English originally so it's easy to fly through. Despite the misleading subtitle of "A Novel Without Letters", the entire novel is in fact written in letters, being the correspondence of a handful of key characters on the island of Nollop, a small island community that worships the man responsible for the pangram "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog". As the letters of the pangram, quasi-immortalised on a statue dedicated to Nevin Nollop begin to fall, the island's leaders ban each missing letter from the English language, with severe penalties if a banned letter is spoken or written. As the book continues, more and more letters fall from the statue until we are left with L, M, N, O and P and the correspondence of the characters within the book is reduced to these letters. Very enjoyable and quite light-hearted but a clever writing exercise and a witty satire.

Work inspired by Oulipean rules.

Here's some work that people have done that were inspired by Oulipean rules.

Tauba Auerbach's alphabetised bible.

Also Rory Macbeth who did the same thing but by word, not letter.

And Kitty Clark's Moebius Strip Story and
Dipping Duck Orchestra.

Construction Images

Some images from the construction of the clock. 100 smaller clocks were ordered from China for a very low price so not expecting that they'll be very reliable. Ideally they'd keep time but some way of keeping them in check may have to be designed.

The Final Design?