Monday, April 13, 2009

Small Shames, part the first

This is new. There will probably be a catalogue of similar pictures for the next few weeks.

I have talked before of how I am resolved to rid myself of my social shames and apprehensions. I am trying, but often I find myself failing. I am keeping a recollection of when this happens. What I want to avoid is that familiar effect where you do (or do not do, more often) something and that makes you feel shame, but as time passes you rationalize it and end up finding some lame reason for what you did, you feel at peace with it. I make these now and I make them as well as I can so I will not have this opportunity to ever lie to myself.

When I have a number of them I will have them silk-printed stickers and place them in the heart of what has made me feel these shames in the first place: downtown Athens. It has taught me to hate and fear other people and this will be one thing I can do to have a bit of a proactive revenge. The ultimate goal of such endeavors is to act rightly in the moment and not to just make stupid art after it, though. Self-coaching. I will let you know of how that goes.

Keep reading



James said...

Beautiful. The brief text reads like a scalpel. I'm very guilty of this same shame and i've come to rationalize it like you said, but it's ultimately very lame behavior. For every person in this situation that screams at you to leave them alone, there must be someone who wants some form of consolation. I've been that guy in the drawing and i've also walked past that guy numerous times.

Can't wait to more of this series.

Helm said...

Thank you, James. I am very glad you were affected by this in the way you describe.

I had this problem with the text that some people I showed it to read it more as if they were the thoughts of the man sitting and not of the person looking at him. Although that also worked (as you say we've all been by that person but also him), I wanted the alienation of the other situation to be present more since that is what the shame was about. I considered putting the text outside the image (on the right of it) but then I would lose the effect of the words merging downwards with the asphalt grain, which in the end I decided was more important than the chance it won't communicate 100%

Markus Rosse said...

Very interesting piece. I think it really depends on your experience what you feel when seeing/reading this image. I, for my part, interpreted the situation as followed.
"It's evening, you on the way back home with some of your friends and then notice this young men sitting on the steps. You instantly recognize that something strange is going on, but you never worried about such strangers and it wouldn't feel right to interfere (it's not your problem). So you just pass by and don't mind further.
The next day you have already forgotten what you saw, but then, reading the newspaper, you see in a small columns that last night a young men committed suicide.
You assume, that it is the person you saw yesterday, maybe you think, when you have said something, that the men would still be alive. But then, it's not your problem. Maybe it was just a coincidence and it was a different men, and even if. You are not responsible, right?
You leave home for school and none of your friends, which saw the men yesterday, say something about it. So you don't think about it further and when school is out, you have alread forgotten what happened last evening.
Why should it concern you?"
This story didn't happen to me, but I interpreted your image as such. Maybe I have to say that I grow up in a fairly save environment (I still live there, semi-countryside) and there aren't any dangerous people there. So I didn't learn to fear the people, rather to ignore them because their problems are not mine and it would be disrespectful to the other men if I would interfere.
I'm not sure if that is what you wanted to say, but it just came into my mind and maybe it's interesting for you.

Helm said...

Yes it is very interesting. I wonder about this decision that it is polite to not intervene in the lives of others even in the minutest ways, if possible. I wonder of easy practicalities that hide a lot of anxiety.

James said...

I think the risk you're running by leaving the text not 100% communicable (although I question if keeping it outside of the image would help this matter), is not only worthwhile because of the nice effect of blending into the asphalt but also because what you're saying will be instantly recognizable to the people who know the shame. That sounds idealistic but if it had an instantaneous effect on me, there must be others who will feel the same way and those are the people who will be stirred the most.

Nick said...

I also had the impression that the thoughts were of the person sitting instead of the one looking at them.

As for intervening in the lives of others,it should better be minute,discreet,subtle intervention in my opinion, taking into account that changing mainly depends on the individual's choice and resolutions rather than some stranger's or even friend's words. On the other side some friendly caring signs will most likely do good to anyone, I feel,except if one is so desperate that he totally refuses any 'help' and dismisses any friendly tries as futile or fake. But even in that case there is a point he will 'break' if he is shown enough true love & caring.
Tricky, something inside me still tries to choose the intervening way. Maybe some kind of semi-obsessive christian remaints and 'hippie' love ideolepsies.

Helm said...

I think the quasi-Christian thing is a better impulse than the alter apars which I have dubbed "Comfortable Nietzscheian" where usually well-bred middle class people wax on about slave mentality and how one is one's own master of destiny and will etc etc whenever it is convenient to compartmentalize and pacify the suffering of others. I go from the one extreme to the other seemingly erratically so I am not passing judgment lightly.

Nick said...

The 'truth' is found in the equilibrum between the extremes and the balanced merge of all points of view... or not?

Helm said...

I wouldn't know, I've never been an especially balanced person and I naturally gravitate towards extremes.

blasco blaze said...


This is an amazing project, please keep us informed about the progress. Also, it would be swell if you took photographs of the stickers in those traumatic places and posted them here. As a part of documentation you could also get a map of Athens and stick the stickers or photographs on it... or number it, like a military map... of the War of Shame.

Two days ago our copy of the comic finally arrived!
Thank you, we get much pleasure&joy from this publication. From the state of the envelope I gather that the Polish postmen got their share of pleasure&joy as well, bless them.

It is much more proffessional a book than I've imagined; I pictured in my mind something of fanzine print quality. The paper, the format etc everything's cool.

The language barrier is neglegible, because we know the comics -- apart from some short ones that you haven't posted here. Also, I've noticed that the book's divided into 3 (4?) chapters. What is the principle of the division?

I've booked my tattoo - imagine that I have to wait until the 2nd of July! Outrage. But they're supposed to be the best tattomeisters in Warsaw, so I'd prefer to wait than to have the image (and my left arm eternal) ruined.

Belated Easter greetings,

Helm said...

That idea with the map and reference photos is a good one. I might employ it.

The divisions of the book are the following:

1. The hiring
(little helm says in the picture to the editor: "see, look, they'll be funny!")

2. Questions
(little helm says to his coworker, mike: "mike, who reads us?" and mike replies "my mom does")

3. Depression
(little helm is depressed)


4. Evaluation
(what we're doing now)

I'm happy you were pleasantly surprised by the quality of print etc. I'm getting similar comments from a lot of sources. I think I should distance myself (and others in the Greek scene should follow also) from the term 'fanzine' (which after all, is misused. A fanzine is a periodical made by fans of a particular pop cultural event, for fans of it. This isn't what I do) and instead stick to 'small press' or 'independent publication'.

Good luck with the tattoo! Show me pictures when it's done.

Oh, also, pictures of Feliks. E-mail me.

sander said...

Touching piece indeed. The visuals and text work very complementary.

Solar said...

It seemed natural for me to place myself in the mind of the character, so it was interesting to see other readers experiencing it as an observer. The title 'small shames' should have tempered me to being an observer, but alas.

It may be impossible to work out if this is due to the reader or the art itself. I have the feeling thought that most of your work tends to reflect on thoughts on an individual, so I naturally thought the individual in the picture was the source of the thoughts.

One aspect of the prose that did read strange, if they were the thoughts of the character, was the 'we passed you by on the way home'. This perhaps does more to suggest that it is not the loner talking, but again it is not explicit.

One thing that might work would be to add two long, thin frames to the left and right of the main frame. These could have the view of the observer walking toward and away from the man on the steps, encouraging the reader to be an observer.

Still, great as it is

Helm said...

It had helped me a lot to realize a few years ago that a lot of the art I found incessantly preachy or deictic was tolerable and even human and affecting when I thought of the artist mainly talking to himself through all his acclamations and finger-pointing. Most of my work that seems to be about individuals in the abstract is about myself, definitely. So although some pieces hang more towards realizing this than others, it's worth going back and looking at a few other pages as if they're not actually about other people. This is why I don't exhibit a lot of hate towards my characters (besides Bernard Chrome, whom I genuinely didn't mean as a version of myself.... I think....) because I don't hate myself. I disapprove of myself sometimes, but I think I've worked the hates out.