Monday, September 21, 2015

The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert by Marc-Antoine Mathieu

This graphic novel takes us gently down a “rabbit hole” into the museum’s endless subbasements. Which museum?  The answer is a taste of things to come.  Although called by many names, “they say that these names are nothing but anagrams of the museum’s real name, which has been forgotten.” 
Archivist Edeus Volmer and his assistant Leonard arrive on a stormy night to begin an inventory of the sub-basements.  The novel’s panels proceed with beautiful pools and avenues of pale light set within umber shadows that often recede with a cinematic sense of distance in space.  Months, and longer, pass as the archivists travel the basements. In some, a curator entertains us with wit on art and memory. Others provoke us with insights on originality, and creativity.  In the “restoration workshop” experts view their work with small headlamps because, “for restorers light is the enemy of color”, and “darkness preserves colors”.  In the “department of copies” the curator regrets that the practice of copying the masters isn’t fashionable.  “Copying isn’t original any longer.”   In the “department of archives” we watch Volmer and Leonard fly on a rolling book ladder, their coats flapping like superheroes’ capes through the upper stories of a city of archives. 

Finally, Leonard comes to tell Volmer that this “limitless universe” suggests that an inaccessible “essential” exists.  Being inaccessible, limitless paths to travel are all the more important.  I was entertained and captivated by every path.

Review by Ken 

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