December 05, 2010

Homovisual translation - Deemer and Woo: PyongYang TOO

Adapting Guy Delisle's comic book: PyongYang

Adapting a comic book is something quite obvious and quite remarkably done in many cases (for instance "Sin City"). We are not talking about adaptation here but a genuine reenactement of the original work on a new medium. In this case, Guy Delisle's comic (PyongYang) is here literally tanslated into photographic scenes which mimick the ones initially drawn by the author. What you can see in Deemer & Woo's work is exactly the same scenes with real characters. At times, when a human character was not available, D&W insert the comic version.

When Guy Delisle first went to North Korea (on a job assignment), his entire life was under control and supervision. He would not move without a translator and a so-called guide who were in charge, in his free time, of taking him to the official places (restaurants, sites, museums) and would make sure he would not take any initiatives of his own or escape the official routes and rhythms. And Guy would do so like ALL the visitors (mostly expatriates) to this country thus complying with the rigid local customs.

What Deemer and Woo are also doing (apart from having fun translating this static reality) is epitomising the iterative and never-ending journey of the foreigner in this frozen time/place. This is not about interpreting or describing a frightening life but demonstrating the constraint itself. D&W seem to have chosen to unveil the constraint at work: your body caught in a time and a space which does not belong to you but to the Other (the designer of the comic /of this kafkaian system); your mind and will are devoid of any initiative and brutally restricted to the structure (be it strips or official rules) and to pre-established actions.

Unsurprisingly, the characters in their pictures cannot talk, the words that come out of their mouths are the bublles taken from Guy's comic. Even when Guy had a chance to "escape" for a few hours, D&O have no way out but to stick to the original scenario.

Deemer and Woo: PyongYang TOO, A Journey in North Korea is presented on Guy Delisle's website.

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