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Artistic memories of the Great War

| Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ArtisticMem_WEBEmily Danaher

A collision of media, history and discussion will take place in the Debartolo Performing Arts Center tonight.

“WWI In the Graphic Novels: A Drawing Cabaret,” hosted by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Film, Television and Theater (FTT) Department, will combine acting, drawing and an audience-centered discussion in memorial of the First World War.

Four artists chose texts that served as inspiration for their works, and four actors from the FTT department will perform each text.

There will be an ongoing discussion with the graphic novelists, while one of the artists performs a live drawing of the text he or she chose. A camera will project the drawing process for the audience.

The event has been a work-in-progress since Jim McAdams, the Director of the Nanovic Institute, and Anthony Monta, the Associate Director, approached Olivier Morel for an innovative event to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War (1914-1918).

Morel, a native of France with three ancestors who fought in the Great War, took on the project.

“We tend to forget that it was not just a ‘world’ war in the sense that many nations and people were involved,” he said. “It is also about the scale: with this war, the world, the ancient world, was upside down.”

At the time, nearly everyone in France, Belgium, the U.K., Italy, the Balkans, Central Europe and Germany felt the war’s consequences. The stories remain prevalent today, and Morel has a few of his own.

“One of my great-grandfather’s ships sunk in the Strait — he survived after spending 48 hours on a small piece of wood. The other one, who was a very poor illiterate peasant, got a severe head injury that kept him from working. He died eight years after the war due to the consequences of his injury.”

Morel has approached the First World War in creative and insightful ways before.

“At a personal level, I have worked extensively on this conflict: from 1995 until 2004, I traveled around the world, and I interviewed and filmed many WWI veterans — they were all 99 years old and older. I wrote two books on the subject, put together an exhibit that was displayed in several venues including the Gare de l’Est train station (where many soldiers left from), and I am currently completing a web documentary with the international television channel TV5.”

Tonight’s event will focus on the graphic novel as a medium for “writing and storytelling with a strong relationship to artistic and literary traditions, as well as photography, sociology and cinema,” Morel said.

The event will feature four graphic novelists who embody these ideals. Maël & Kris are currently turning their four-volume graphic novel, “Notre Mère la Guerre,” into a feature film, Chloé Cruchaudet’s graphic novel “Mauvais Genre” was inspired by a true story, and Ivan Petrus, who published “The Nieuport Gathering,” has a personal family history that links him to the subject.

“One of the most interesting developments in the sector of graphic novels that I have experimented and taught is ‘documentary graphic novels’ or ‘comics journalism,’” Morel said. “Interestingly, the four artists that I invited are very active in this sector.”

The inclusion of “comics journalism” in the event will lend itself to topical discussions of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January, Morel said.

“Several of the artists knew some of the people who were killed or targeted at Charlie Hebdo, so the audience will hear from firsthand connections,” Morel said.

The event will be held at Philbin Studio Theatre in DPAC tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are free and can be reserved online.

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