member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dreaming Reality: Theo Ellsworth

Something Just Happened

From theo ellsworth

"I Wish Something Would Happen"

From theo ellsworth

"I Know I should be Careful What I Wish For, But This is the Kind of Thing That I've Always Wanted to Have Happen to Me"

According to his website, apart from writing stories and illustrating them with a mixture of mad abandon and inhuman patience, "He does invisible performance art that no one will ever see."

But...on his Flickr page, he lets this slip:

From theo ellsworth

"Performance Art"

He claims to have a miniature city inside his head, which he took me on a personalized (*"insert your name here _______") tour of in his exceptional book Capacity, but which he gives a more generalized view of here:

From theo ellsworth

"Miniature City"
(Note that you can see a bigger photo of ALL these images by following the links)

He regularly hikes and walks around everywhere, apparently seeing all the gorillas the rest of us have been missing, then runs home and records it on paper to help us catch up.

From theo ellsworth

"Another Elephant Woman Sighting"

At some point, he decided to make a journal of these types of things, and called it "Capacity," and had it published. I stumbled across it, and it made me so happy, I'm going to tell you about it here:



The first thing that struck me about this comic book is that in every panel, everything is alive. Objects and creatures (including humans) mix. For example, there's a human whose head is part helmet-birdhouse and whose chest resembles a cuckoo clock, with a little opening under a drawn heart for the bird to come out of. There is a monster partly made up of roots, because everything is part of the natural world, too. Almost all of the buildings have faces, there are faces everywhere.
And he invites you in to this, completely. He invites you to become the mute being who bears witness to his story, but in a very active, very present, and necessary way. You are necessary to the story. (Or maybe I'm psychotic; I felt that way). The monster welcomes you into the story, you are given a blank on which to write your name as he greets you, and he (Theo, not the monster) asks you, How does the monster's breath smell? He apologizes if it's terrible. He encourages you to envision your view from your new perch atop the monster's head as he carries you to where the story will be told.
All in all, there's a lot here expressing (and inviting) interconnectedness.

From theo ellsworth

From theo ellsworth

Theo takes you through his dreams and through his waking hours, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you the difference, as he appears to be one of those lucky guys that sees magic everywhere. When you enter the comic, you enter a dream, whether it claims to be waking life or no. Matter is more visibly fluid than in my waking life (though I'm making an effort to see things this way). The monster who greets you morphs various times, trying to come up with a physical identity which suits him, but this doesn't disturb the action or his monologue.

Theo here creates not another world, but many other worlds, and he gives them all an incredible amount of detail. He tells us "Stories always get more complex the closer I look at them. Even the tiniest character could have whole worlds inside of them, and those worlds could be filled with characters that have stories of their own. I become terrified of losing myself."

But he listens to everyone, even if they don't speak a language he understands, trying to understand and give each one a voice. Which is the very idea of St. Lucy, and of Tlon: to be able to unhinge from your own perspective, which defines yourself; to make yourself open to many, often completely foreign perspectives; to immerse yourself in them, and become something utterly new. This is what he offers us, as he invites us in.

And Now for a Self-Portrait

Later in the comic, there is a brief performance of a conversation between a man (the author) and a woman. The woman gives herself over to all of her emotions, showing what kind of creature each of them would be--what you would see if you could see each of her moods, instead of her regular old body costume. (This section almost seems like a tool for dream exercises: If in a dream, I'm being chased through an abandoned house by a noisy puppet, what does it mean? But that's actually from a different section...) And then she finally asks him: what about you? If I could see what you feel like right now, what would I see?
His answer:

From theo ellsworth

He opens his heart to you, and I mean that literally. You'll understand what I'm saying when you buy the book.
(note the two of them having coffee somewhere near the middle)

On Austin English's blog, there are 20 questions for cartoonists to answer, and Theo has offered his responses. This one is particularly telling (and also, I think, very, very obvious):
"1. can you describe your drawing routine---how often you draw, how many hour per day---how you break up the day with drawing?

I try to spend as much time as possible drawing everyday. It's a constant battle. There's always a list of other things I should be doing, but drawing comics is what I want to be doing. I try to get up in the morning and get right to work. On good days, I'll work maybe 10-13 hours. I have periods of time each day where I have to make myself completely unavailable (no phones or computers) just so I can sink into my own world and live there for periods of time with no interruption. If I didn't live with my girlfriend, there'd be a lot of days where I just don't see anyone. Other days, I'm running all over town doing chores, trying to get my left brain to help me keep my life in check. Other days, I'll draw all day with friends, which helps me feel less isolated and strange. The goal is to make art whenever and wherever I can."

You may look at all these super-detailed illustrations, realize that just this book is 336 pages long, and wonder: How is it that his fingers still work? Answer: His girlfriend is an acupuncturist.

At the end of the comic, he brings you gently back into your regular body, but not before letting you know that your time in his world has left you with some excellent benefits, not the least of which is inclusion in the Imaginary Body Club, which allows you access to places previously unavailable to you (as a person with only a real body).
Let's hope so.

Please also note that on his journeys, he seems to have discovered a few vehicles, gadgets, and snippets of language that Luigi Serafini left out of his record.

From theo ellsworth

From theo ellsworth

"Dragon Brain Car"

I will leave you today with this insanely wise piece of philosophy:

From theo ellsworth

"I truly believe that for every imaginary problem, there is an imaginary solution."


  1. This is so inspirational, Theo is so passionate and dedicated to his work. What an amazing artist! Briliant post.
    Thanks Zoe, you opened another fantastic door to me. Your fan forever, Vesna

  2. i'm glad you enjoyed it! i really wanted to put a ton of other images in here, but i didn't want to spoil the book. he makes incredible creatures, and my favorite part is the section called capacity 7, where he talks to a wizard with a special relationship to little furry creatures he calls his dream memories....