Caricatures, comics, and all the rest

Courtesy of ANIMIX Festival, Tel Aviv
Courtesy of ANIMIX Festival, Tel Aviv

Caricature as exaggeration — and truth

The caricaturist often looks upon public figures, and even those not so public, with a jaundiced eye, ready to make fun, see the foolish, or perhaps, even the evil in politicians.

The Knesset members, jubilantly taking a selfie after the Le’um-Nation Law was passed, should have been more careful, realizing how foolish they looked. And indeed, in the spirit of Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” the caricaturist Avi Katz,” represented these politicians as a sloppy, stocky, self-satisfied group of pigs.

Courtesy of ANIMIX Festival, Tel Aviv

Of course, caricature is the art of exaggeration.

The art historian E.H. Gombrich claimed that there is always some distorted element in every image, and the caricaturist magnifies it, exaggerates it, for all to see. But Francis Grose cautioned, in “Rules for Drawing Caricatures,” “that a modest amount of deviation causes laughter, while a great amount incites horror. This was evident in relation to Avi Katz’s “Animal Farm” sketch. Those on the political Left laughed, enjoyed Katz’s image. “Yes, that’s it. He really catches them,” one friend agreed. As the philosopher Henri Bergson had put it,” the artist makes “a face that looks more like the face than the face itself,”and captures the essence of the people.

At ANIMIX Tel Aviv, the 18th International Festival of Animation, Comics and Caricatures that took place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on August 7-11, there was an exhibit of cartoonists reacting to Avi Katz’s caricature. Clearly, they agreed with the exhibit’s call for “freedom of speech,”as I did, but at the same time, there are certainly many Israelis who would have reacted with horror. Even when one enjoys the cleverness of a political caricature, the reaction of laughter or horror depends on one’s politics.

Many questions arise. Does carrying an image to an extreme nurture extremism, or can the laughter effect catharsis, a release of resentment and anger. Or is it a call to action? There was a symposium at the festival on how animation has fought against racism and hate. By evoking the horror of a situation, an image, worth a thousand words, can touch the deepest part of a person, his or her identity.

The weight of identity was very much felt in the exhibit of drawings, caricatures and comics by Tayo Fatunla, a Nigerian caricaturist Fatunla draws homey African folklore figures alongside hungry, skeletal images reminding us that geography is also destiny. His caricature of a world globe where the country of Nigeria is falling off the edge of the map, reflects the frustration of a people whose country and continent is ignored, its suffering forgotten.

Animated films by students about the homeless, and lonely, existential figures at sea, figuratively and literally, indicate that there is a western world also falling off the globe.

There were many images, varieties of caricature,comics and animation at this rich and wonderful festival that evoked smiles, if not laughter, and a warm, positive relationship to one’s identity. In the youth comics competition, Ben Gurion’s large tufts of hair with the island of baldness between was an endearing object of attention.

Courtesy of ANIMIX Festival, Tel Aviv

The exhibit “Shrulik 2018,”and a symposium on the cartoonist Dosh (Kariel Gardosh who died two decades ago) and had created the whimsical sabra cartoon figure Srulik with his khaki shorts and “kova tembel,” symbolized the pioneering Israeli of earlier times , that still lingers in the self-image of many Israelis, even as they grapple with the more realistic, political issues of “Animal Farm.”

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About the Author
Rochelle Furstenberg is a journalist and literary critic who has written extensively on literary and cultural topics.
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