September Book Reviews from 'The Make Believe Issue'


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September Book Reviews from 'The Make Believe Issue'

Book reviews from the latest issue of our magazine – including reviews of Roger Ballen's 'Outland' and Joan Cornellá's 'ZONZO'.
September 14, 2015, 2:27pm

Jack Dominic Watts
Self Published

Complaining about stuff you like entering mainstream culture is a spoilt-baby thing to do. If your identity is dependent on being a one-off, you're probably a bit of a twat. That said, it could be argued that the recent acceptance of tattoos by the greater populace has rather sucked the fun out of them. Tattoos used to be for lunatics, criminals and wild-eyed children of the darkness, but thanks to Topman, craft beer and reality TV, they've fallen into the hands of vloggers and estate agents. Sadly, tattoos don't say "no thanks" at the moment, they say "I fuss about my hair a great deal". Now in its fourth issue, Tattoos For Your Enemies showcases Watts's wonky reworking of the tropes of old — skulls, ghouls, daggers, cartoon characters — rendered with an uncanny awkwardness that says "creepy goofy shit for fun weirdos" way before it says "potential tattoo for a Men's Health reader with perfect facial hair". Check it out if you're a fun weirdo.

Roger Ballen

There's something inherently scary about a lack of definition. In the case of Outland that lack comes in the blurring of lines between portraiture, art, pose and reportage. It's hard to know how to describe this book, now reissued with a load of new and unnerving images. It's, like, portraits of poor, disabled and mentally unstable people from South Africa's forgotten and remote villages, but Ballen sort of encouraged them to artdirect themselves, to pose and use props. So, the people are real. But the situations may not be. Get it? It's fucking weird. Another strange aspect is the way it does not appear to be tethered to any specific time. The images could have been taken in 1940 or 2015, though as it happens most were taken in the 80s and 90s, and that too gives the book a rather nightmarish quality. This portrait of mental and physical illness, extreme poverty, and physical and social isolation is not easy to look at, but it is fucking amazing.

Joan Cornellà

Time was, the internet was crammed with little four-panel comics about dads raping their sons' eyeballs with AIDS dicks, but, in the era of social justice, these have fallen by the wayside. Catalan cartoonist Joan Cornellà takes us back to those halcyon days in ZONZO, with depraved illustrations of crocodile hunters stabbing children in the heart, deformed mutants imitating road signs with their warped viscera, and melted cows being reshaped into cute dogs. The only real issue with ZONZO is that there isn't enough of it. I could happily build a man-size fort of books with his pictures of arse-faced horse-humans getting sodomised by bollocklegged grinning men. The best thing about the book is its distinct lack of any message: it's a collation of brightly coloured, horrible scenarios played out in a mural-in-a-nursery kind of world setting. Perhaps this should be in nurseries — maybe then kids wouldn't be so fucking lame.

Flurina Rothenberger
Edition Patrick Frey

Flurina Rothenberger captures a world of serenity and romantic banality in this new book about the people of Africa. I Love To Dress Like I Am Coming From Somewhere is interspersed with the indigenous people's mantras — statements of independence and positivity — hand-painted and laid over the photographs. Rothenberger's subjects are confident in front of the photographer's gaze — their statures distinct in the landscape, their outfits, a combination of traditional Dutch wax fabrics and imported Western garments, reflecting the evolving narrative of the continent. Documenting multiple identities and lives in a beautifully curated production, the book exemplifies the pride and variety of Africa, all too often prescribed a singular story.

Wendy Ewald

At a recent dinner party I spoke to someone who was scared to go to almost every country in the world based on what she believed was a lack of safety. I blushed at her ignorance and told her most places were not as dangerous as she imagined. I then expanded this view to places I'd never visited. But what would it take for either of us to really know? Maybe we'd have to go and speak to all the different people who make up the society of a given nation. Maybe we'd give them a camera so we could see what they see, then edit that into a book, and even then we wouldn't know. We might end up with a book on the most contested land in the world — the West Bank — that can always be relied upon to bring up a different sort of debate at any dinner party.