Special thanks to MATT KINDT for his approval on running this feature in Entropy: REFERENCES
PEPE ROJO is a writer and interventionist living in the California border zone. He has published five books and more than 200 texts dealing with fiction, media, and contemporary culture, in Spanish and English. He has also directed several intervention projects in both countries. He was most recently spotted raising “Tierra y Libertad” flags.
ON COPYRIGHT AND CRITICISM
I’ve always been interested in media and how it shapes and moves us. When Steven Shaviro analyzes KW Jeter’s Noir, he writes that copyright offenders are mainly jealous. They envy so much other’s abilities to create that they can’t help but steal it. That’s how I felt. I can only draw doodles, and I love comics, so I decided I would make one without drawing, using Matt Kindt’s gorgeous watercolors to work with. I was trying to make a piece of criticism that was a piece by itself, and talk about the way MIND MGMT unleashed a series of ideas I wanted to write through. I started thinking about quotations, and how, copying, remixing and pasting —making “material” quotations— was much easier (and also fun but time consuming) to accomplish doing comic criticism. Instead of wasting lines describing a panel, you can just paste it, and get on with your line of thought.
One of the things I love about comics is that sometimes they don’t take themselves as seriously as other, more settled genres. Even if they are! At the same time, fan boy raving can be tiresome. Finding a middle ground can be helpful. Experimental criticism might also be a way to discover, or force out, different perspectives on how to approach other’s work, instead of just being a judge. Writing with the images allowed me to arrange my thoughts in a different way, which I hope is interesting, even if you haven’t read the comic.
ON SCIENCE FICTION AND SOCIAL REALITY
I try to approach science fiction through Donna Haraway’s phrase: “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion”. Science fiction’s radar had been detecting a kind of conservative, almost fundamentalist and fascist upheaval on the US, fueled by the disparity of income.
At the same time, there’s not that much changing: Obama’s administration had the highest number of deportations ever, Trump is talking about building a wall that is already there. “When has there ever been a US president that’s good for Mexico?” asked JM Servín right after Trump won. Something that was already there became much more visible, and threatening. This uncertainty and fear of the future, which has been commonplace for Mexicans for a long, long while, struck US citizens and caught them unaware.
Things will probably get worse before they get better. And science fiction has always explored that particular feeling…
ON “WE” AND “YOU”
Pronouns are tricky, especially if you live in a border: they can trap you. I try to use both “we” and ‘you” as an apparatus of capture for the reader and myself–even though it throws you into a group or mindset, it will, later on, give you a possibility of escaping.
At the same time, I also feel that there’s a “we” that goes beyond borders, and it’s a “globalized” we, a “technocentric” we, a kind of global well-read and informed citizenship, fueled by a market but also creating connections that allows a Mexican to read MIND MGMT and discuss it with US citizens. It’s a “we” that both frightens and fills me with hope.
In January there were historical marches on both Tijuana and San Diego, on the same week. Both were addressed to their “own’ countries, and both were protesting against the same thing: an illegitimate president that does not represent “us”. Even so, both marches weren’t talking to each other, even if they were protesting the same thing. The ‘we’ I would love to articulate wasn’t there. People were shouting the same thing back to back without turning around and acknowledging each other. It was kind of sad and absurd and it plays really well to our current MIND MGMT’s intentions!
There are several crises going on at the same time. We have a subjectivity crisis and depression is everywhere. There’s a political crisis all around the globe. There’s an environmental crisis right on your neighborhood. An energy crisis. An economic crisis. A romantic crisis. An “I-feel-unsatisfied-with-my-life” crisis. Even though these crises have their local flavor, they are the same worldwide.
It may also be that they are not many crises, but a single one, which is just the way we live. It’s deeply linked to technology (and hence the science fiction undertone). And to capitalism, and privilege. And identity. And reality. I was taking a shot at articulating this feeling by quoting from a review and also quoting from the comic, and its exhilarating and inexhaustible wealth of ideas and language games, which is one of the methods we might be able to use to get out of this mess.
ON LIVING IN THE BORDERS
I’ve written science fiction, mainly in Spanish, as well as horror, and I’ve always been fascinated by the so called speculative genre’s devices and mechanisms. But I have also been writing essays, dealing mainly with media, theory, and contemporary culture. And I’ve been reading comics all my life, and love that place where words and images meet, which has led me to design and self-publishing. And then there’s also the “experiential fiction” interventions I have been doing for the past fifteen years, which led me to performance and the art world. Mainly, it’s a mess, which has put me in a place where I don’t know exactly what it is that I do, which makes me really anxious sometimes but also allows me to do things like this comic, where I don’t really know where’s the line that divides creative from critical work. Living in this particular border (Tijuana-San Diego) has taught me to question all of them, through any means possible.
There has never been such an explosion of creative work in the media world. The speculative genres are now mainstream. Still, there is a crisis of imagination, mainly because imagination has been tied down to the idea of product. As long as imagination is channeled as a product, it will be harmless. Getting out on the street and doing things there and then heading back to the desk and then back to people has provided some relief, at least for me. Finding back alleys to take your creative work out of the highways of product means building communities that may outlast the work they spring out from. Tequio is a pre-hispanic word that describes the work each individual owes to the community they live in. That debt is way beyond taxes. How can this kind of work be tequio? I think any possible answer to that question should both be critical and creative.
Want to be considered for future installments of The New Comics? Send your work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.