I’ve Caught A “Ghost Sickness” — You Should, Too

I don’t know Ariel Cooper. She (perhaps even that’s being presumptuous?) is a mystery to me. I’ve not seen her other work. I can find no examples of it online. Her self-published comics ‘zine Ghost Sickness contains no address indicating where she may be from. I literally know nothing about this artist. And yet —

Some work is so powerful that the idea of hewing to a “narrative” would hold it back not just conceptually, but physically. This is one such work, perhaps even a prime example of it. Cooper (or her stand-in) is born into this world from sickness, and from there — oh, dear whatever-god-you-believe-in, from there —

Dueling polarities of “fine” and “outsider” art create not so much an inexorable tension in this 12-page publication, but a mutually-generated gravitational pull, Cooper’s sublime self-referential imagery first firmly establishing its power and potential to subsume and overwhelm and then, just as quickly, pulling back and not so much inviting as drawing you in, before looping back in on itself, on your perceptions of it, and pulling you forward, its themes of a fallen internal world, a never-ending apocalypse of the micro, of the personal, of the inescapable taking on the tones and rhythms of a visual incantation that bypasses the rational and establishes the id as its playing field.

Except, of course, Cooper’s not playing around. This is sheer, unfiltered, unmediated intent rendered in a miasma of color, of form, of fluidity, an infinity of experience and interpretation on display on every page, any one of which never “hits you” the same way twice. A near-religious experience is a perfectly valid reaction to what’s on offer here — likewise, so is fleeing in abject terror for reasons that can’t even be reduced to the mere linguistic and exist only in the realm of undefinable emotion.

Where does this leave us? It’s hard to say — I’m tempted to say the same place we were when we started, which is to say everywhere, at once, and nowhere at all, but “armed” with the knowledge that we never even knew where that was, never mind what the hell we thought. Perspective-shattering is the order of business here (unless it’s not, in which case it still is — oh fuck remember when I made sense? When you did? When the world did? We were, all of us, wrong about all of that), and in that sense — mission fucking accomplished. If there ever was a mission. A point. An objective. Why can’t we all just be rather than be something? Because we all suffer from a Ghost Sickness, that’s why.

Certain Native American tribes believed you could catch physical illnesses from ghosts or spirits. They thought that these were the most inescapable forms of affliction, and they produced illustrations detailing such things :

I don’t think that’s what Cooper is on about here, but I could be wrong. I could be wrong about a lot of things — or right about all of them. I’m not even sure it matters anymore. I don’t know.  I do know that I don’t know much about Ariel Cooper. But I know everything I need to know about Ariel Cooper.


Ghost Sickness is available for $7 from this site’s good friends at Domino Books. Reading it, experiencing it, probably won’t change anything — but it will definitely change everything. Get it here :http://dominobooks.org/ghostsickness.html



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