First impressions carry a lot of weight. They force us to generate inferences about the quality of the person or thing we encounter, and that perception lingers until powerfully proven otherwise. Therefore it takes a lot of audacity to begin anything with the phrase, “God, this is dull.” Roman Muradov is that audacious.
Roman Muradov's Picnic Ruined is, in the words of its creator, “56 washy pages of me circa 2011 wandering around and talking to myself about fiction & autobiography, memories & re-creation, prepuces & car numbers, futility & bellensebastians, etc...” What we have though, in reality, is a rumination about one of the larger artistic questions: How does one re-create a singular experience in a way that conveys it to a greater audience?
Another question it raises is why don't more things have foreskins, but that is secondary to the main thematic thrust.
Picnic Ruined is a slightly snarky, ironically pretentious, self-aware full-press rumination of the role of the artist and the nature of art itself. In an amusingly self-deprecating fashion, Muradov casts himself as the creator whose affected mannerisms run the gamut of owl-frame glasses, a shaggy mop top, a long coat, and a flowing stripped scarf. As this hero wanders through the limits of his world, he comments on the efficacy of art and his role as the creator. The idea of re-creating experience is paramount in his mind, which he calls “an endeavor fundamentally hopeless, yet hopefully charming in its hopelessness.”
As the comic itself is, in a sense, trying to capture Muradov's own experience, this central theme reverberates in the reading of it.
Great art arises out of the inspirational moment, but once the moment has passed the ability to capture its profundity strains against the filters of time and memory. Once we make sense of a moment, the moment itself is altered by our perceptions. This alteration can, in itself, be a fecund breeding ground for creation, but it also layers films on the original vision. Through the process of re-creation, what was once inspiring can become (as Muradov notes), “pathetically sentimental”, something that only stains “the memory of that perfect moment, already rotten well into vagueness.”
Still, an artist is only an artist when he or she is making art. To give up the act of creation is to give up being a creator. When inspiration starts to be enveloped into ideas of audience or marketability or profit, it loses some of its initial singularity and becomes some other creature altogether. The moment an artist picks up their instrument to convey their inspiration, distance is inevitable and the picnic, as it were, is ruined. Yet as we create things, we, in turn, create ourselves.
The book ends with an abstract idea that seems to suggest that direct participation in life has a greater potential for joy than trying to recreate it or cage it in form; that the futility of trying to capture moments make you miss the truth the moment itself contains. But it seems antithetical to the thrust of the rest of the narrative, and, in a way, ends up being both a profound aesthetic statement and a cheap cop-out geared towards humor at the same time. Given the nature of this comic, though, that seems to only make sense.
Picnic Ruined is a fantastic book that explores sizable ideas while embracing the truth of human nature. It is just about the most honest book I've read in awhile, and, in its honesty, it transcends the limitations of a self-deprecating creator.
You can purchase a copy of Picnic Ruined directly from Retrofit Comics here