Monday, 1 July 2013

The road to Brighton Pier

 It seems to be becoming a bit of a tradition that my blog comes out of it's dormant state every year in preperation for the next Graphic Medicine conference and this year is certainly no exception. Having been pretty blown away by the range of speakers  and the general atmosphere in Toronto last year I have to admit I was saddened by the prospect of it potentially being in the US whilst I was in the middle of my studies and very likely to not be in a good enough place financially to attend. So you can imagine my relief when it was revealed that it was going to be in Brighton this year! Sun, sea, and sanctioned misery: what more could a boy ask for!

As the finalised timetable is not yet posted I will refrain from rolling off a list of speakers I am looking forward to seeing in action, however as per usual there is so much great stuff going on that there are bound to be multiple clashes (although I'm glad to see the organisers have taken on board the critique of last years conference and will have the workshops running separately from the talks). All I can reveal at this point is there will be a great mix as usual of medical professionals, artists/writers, and academics, new authors, independent creators, and slightly more established names (Nicola Streeton and David B are the keynotes this year). Paul Gravett will once again be opening proceedings, hopefully with more obscure examples of medical themes in comics read out in silly voices.

One thing I enjoyed about last year was the range of innovative approaches being taken to narrative and to the comics medium itself and with any luck this year won't disappoint on that front. One of the conference organisers Muna Al-Jawad is currently doing a Phd using the comic form as  a research method, something that interests me greatly and seems to be slowly picking up a bit of steam in both the academic and medical worlds.

So what will I be talking about this year? Well this year I won't be the only one doing the talking, much to the dismay of the second speaker who gains no pleasure from massively editing down my words.  I will be giving a joint paper with my less publicity hungry creative partner in crime, Emma Mould (the second half of Sicker Than Thou). Emma is a writer, blogger, and animal lover (amongst other things), and I have had the pleasure of illustrating two issues of her autobiographical accounts of her struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, and her two month stay in a psychiatric ward (A Life Of Noise & Special Language). What makes this collaboration particularly interesting in light of this years loose conference theme of ethics, is that I'm not just some artist that Emma found on the street, but have been friends with her for close to eight years-whereas we only started collaborating in the last year or so. Effectively the story she is telling in these comics is one that I myself was a (partial) witness to, and that its own had effect on me, much in the same way that the story of my own illness might possibly be viewed differently through her eyes. In our talk we will hopefully address wider questions of responsibility (to friends and family as well as to other people with illnesses), the ethical implications of representation, , as well as questioning whether our collaboration has helped shape our understanding of each others illness, and finally we will no doubt be talking about that age old bugbear: catharsis. All with a splash of humour with any luck.

So if you can make it, I would highly recommend it. The Graphic Medicine conferences act as a springboard for people to tell a whole range of potentially traumatic stories, but despite this, there is usually a whole lot of happiness, humour, and togetherness to come out of this so-called misery, and I can guarantee you'll leave feeling creatively and intellectually rejuvenated.

The 4th International Graphic Medicine Conference, Ethics Under Cover, runs from the 5th-7th of July at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, for more info and for registration click here.