I thought it would be keen to take a moment each month to feature an example of OuBaPo out there in the digital forest. One of the great things about constraint-based art is that artists can achieve it without ever knowing of OuLiPo or its ilk at all. Vegans might be completely unaware that their diet is an example of OuCuiPo, or constraint based cooking. It is likely the case that today’s example is not endeavoring to make OuBaPo-style work, but, well there you have it.
You may already be familiar with Daniel Leonard’s tumblr 3eanuts, but it is unlikely that you considered it an OuBaPo-ian exercise. For any neophytes out there, 3eanuts features original Charles Schulz comic strips with the final panel omitted. The OuBaPo constraint is reduction, sometimes called slenderising. This is a transformative constraint performed on existing comics. A popular example is Gilles Ciment‘s Cigares du pharaon where Hergé‘s Tintin is reduced to six panels.
What makes this particular example of OuBaPo so fascinating is how consistent the result is. One would assume that the repeated constraint of lopping off a final panel would yield a variety of results, that the three panel comics might at times read joyous, hopeful, or even nonsensical on occasion; however, the results are almost exclusively moments of dark poignancy, existential longing or, at times, despair. The constraint reveals a truth to the work that is hidden by the original artist’s use of a gag-panel.
Leonard explains it this way:
“The concluding punchline distances readers emotionally from the misery that precedes it; jokes turn us from co-sufferers into onlooking wise guys.”
Schulz’s heavy subject matter doesn’t end in his comics. Imagine watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and cutting the last five minutes off. If Charlie Brown had never returned to find the other children had fixed the tree and were singing carols? Not good for Chuck. Despite his best efforts, he has ruined the Christmas pageant, is surrounded by commercialism, got bible-schooled by a kid with a blanket, and has now killed the tree he had pinned all his hopes on. Bleak. I won’t even get into Snoopy Come Home sans-conclusion.