Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Official Unseen


A world map of the countries in which the death penalty is still in use, is a revelation of the nature of the ultimate type of punishment: It is a political act. 

The death penalty may be explained as a statement or a measure taken, depending on the country's need to hide or create a mise-en-scène, but it is first and last a show of power. No clearer underlined than when the neighbouring democracies sees no need to exercise judicial murder.

The point was made all the more poignant when an execution went utterly wrong in Oklahoma in April of this year. The convict Clayton D. Lockett was injected with a drug, which did not end his life directly, nor did it pacify or lessen his agony. He went into cramps, trying to fight off the pain for 43 minutes. No footage of it has been leaked. If we had seen, what took place, we would have seen the barbarism of the act. No matter the crime committed in the first place, it is each time a new crime taking place.

But when film and photos are forbidden, we have the cartoonist. And Mikkel Sommer made a drawing, which is impossible to look at. Impossible in the good sense: 



Mikkel Sommer, Politiken, June 19, 2014.
- do click on the drawing to see all of the detailing


This is death by deliberation. We only need to see the one hand to have the full picture figuratively speaking. And what a hand. Each muscle is tightened to a violent angle, the blue veins are drawn like ornaments running all the way through unto the explosion of the red fingertips.

This is no less a homage to Daumier, the grand master of cartoon art. His heritage is present in the intricate use of the line, as well as in the demonstration of injustice. Daumier worked at a time when he would include the judge, the courtroom and probably the corrupt defense counsel as well. Mikkel Sommer has condensated their entire scenery to the cuffed handwrist.

On a lighter note this is one of a handful of drawings we have seen from Mikkel Sommer in Politiken the past months with the hope that this is just the beginning. Politiken is a paper, which has defined itself since 1884 through its cartoonists. We still remember the names of those editors in charge under whose wings the cartoonists were given free reins, resulting in cartoons, which have changed, developed and defined Danish cartoon art. The late Tøger Seidenfaden was the latest of those who dared. It is now time for his successors to make their first moves cartoonwise...


The drawing is shown courtesy of Mikkel Sommer and must not be reproduced without his permission.


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