The 286th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  Oct. 27, 2020 at 7pm. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email comicssymposium@gmail.com to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Ilan Manouach on Applied Memetic: Comics and Artificial (artificial) intelligence 

 While speculations about the growing role of machines in artistic production have been a consistent trope in modern and contemporary art debates throughout the 20th century, comics from their early beginnings, have been symbiotically expanding with the development of printing, distribution, communication and media technologies. These industrial processes of completion based on generalized automation, standardization practices and an orchestrated division of labour are so embedded in the ways we understand and consume comics that have become an essential feature for the conceptualization of artistic practices in the medium. A typical production line of manga comics, for instance, involves dozens of people handling specialized roles in a quasi-taylorist production belt, often in ways that have been criticized for resembling a sweat shop, while distribution has been increasingly involving massively digitized operations of logistics and global supply chains. Comics is an industrial form of artistic expression. 

 At the same time, the comics industry has been quite reticent in embracing the complex nature of technological developments in automation and especially in artificial intelligence. Synthetic and generative processes might soon reshape the ways we produce, consume, archive and distribute comics artefacts. A more wide adoption of artificial intelligence in different strata of the industry might reconfigure existing readership(s) market(s) and will ultimately force a radical realignement for the practitioners’ artistic ethos and contribute to the formation of new reader sensibilities. 

 During my talk, I would like to present two published book projects I did, that used different processes of automation, and a third one on the making. 

 The research for this talk was supported by the Onassis Digital Residency Program (Athens), the Kone Foundation (Helsinki) and the Federation Wallonie Bruxelles – soutien a la bande dessinee program (Brussels). 

Ilan Manouach is a conceptual comics artist. He currently pursues a PhD at Aalto University in Helsinki (adv. Craig Dworkin) where he examines how the comics industry is undergoing historic mutations in the midst of increasingly financialized, globalized technological affordances of the XXIst century. He is mostly known for being the creator of Shapereader, an embodied system of communication designed for blind and partially sighted readers/makers of comics. He is the founder of Applied Memetic, an organization that researches the political repercussions of generative and automated content in the comics industry and highlights the urgency for a new media-rich internet literacy and the director of Futures of Comics, an international research programme that proposes to map the social, economic, racial and gendered forces that shape the industry’s commercial, communication and production routines. He is equally the curator of the Conceptual Comics selection for Monoskop and Ubuweb, and the initiator of Topovoros, an hyper-local publishing initiative based in Athens. His work has been written about in Hyperallergic, e-flux, World Literature Today, Wired and Kenneth Goldsmith’s Wasting Time on the Internet. When not in stealth mode, he is an Onassis Digital Fellow and a Kone alumnus.

ilanmanouach.com artist website

shapereader.org official Shapereader website

futuresofcomics.org global research program on comics

appliedmemetic.com research and development of generative media

echochamber.be production backend office

topovoros.gr publishing initiative located in Athens

ubu.com/contemp/manouach/index.html artist page in Ubuweb

monoskop.org/ Conceptual_comics collection of conceptual comics.

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