Activist, cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco, will be sharing his work today at the Michigan Theater. Sacco’s presentation is affiliated with the International Institute’s Conflict and Peace Initiative and the Penny Stamps Distinguished Lecture Series, and receives additional support from 25 campus co-sponsors.
A world traveler, Sacco has used his journeys to inspire his writing and drawings in order to create multiple award-winning novels, including “Days of Destruction,” “Days of Revolt,” “Footnotes in Gaza” and “Safe Area Goražde.” Additionally, Sacco took his real accounts in Europe and produced them into his critically acclaimed comic “Yahoo.” Though much of his work is rooted in Middle Eastern tensions and global justice issues in general, his work did not begin that way.
“I started drawing when I was about six-years-old,” the Malta-born and American-raised Sacco said. “I really enjoyed drawing funny stuff, mainly for humor, because I was in it for the laugh.”
However, as Sacco got older, he became more interested in connecting his humorous drawings with real world events — thus, his satirical lens led to more “pointed journalistic works.”
When asked to describe his work in one sentence, Sacco said: “The reality I see.” As an artist, he can neither make claims for every artistic viewer nor for the overall world.
“I can only recreate what I have seen … it’s completely subjective,” he said. “I cannot be the monopoly on the concept of truth.”
That sentiment regarding his work continues today, even amidst a time fraught with political tensions. Despite political controversy, Sacco doesn’t intend to change his work.
“Comics is a flow form of work,” he simply stated.
When creating his graphics, he must think about how the drawing will represent “a long term scene,” or in other words, long term issues and not necessarily bound to this specific time in our nation’s history.
Sacco’s vantage is that the most important thing for people to know when reading and observing his work is that even as a popular journalist, an artist and an activist, “Journalism is imperfect.”
But journalism, in all its various mediums — whether broadcast, print or radio — has the ability to alter the world. Perhaps more now than ever before, today’s social climate demands that inquisitive and self-aware journalists, like Joe Sacco, remain critical in the work that they do in order to preserve the integrity of the media and defend the notion of truth.