Peanuts Minus Schulz
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Peanuts minus Schulz : Distributed Labor as a Compositional Practice is a conceptual comic book project that consists of the reproduction of Schulz's work by commissioned artists, using digital tools and mediated by a digital labor management platform. Commissioned by way of digital labor services, it brings together a selection of comic strips home-brewed by over one thousand de-skilled microworkers from twenty different countries. The operation consists of the reproduction of iconic comic strips using a number of variations that I devised and integrated in the commissions. Without sacrificing the semantic complexity and the reader engagement that can be found in the original Peanuts series, the book emphasizes the comics, in their (digitally) distributed labor. The percolation of the comic strip units through the extremely deskilled workforce of the digital factory calls into question the primacy of storytelling and drawing as the defining factors of comics.
The deployment of home-brewed versions of Schulz’s work, and the varied responses to the different instructions I received, is both intentional and unpredictable. By foregrounding the uneasy interdependence of work and leisure, of artistic craftsmanship and deskilled manpower, PmS displaces the integrity of the comic strip as a fully-fledged entity, albeit a corporate copyright property, to an ongoing score. The digitally aggregated results resist the smooth integration and style uniformization conventionally required in the industry of comics. In PmS the collected material constantly fails to fulfill the seamless, unbroken metabolization that leads to a totalizing system. The selection process didn’t have the goal to level or neutralize the differences in the work provided by amateurs, fans or non-artists, neither to enforce any apprenticeship model nor exclude unqualified, or marginalize temperamental and idiosyncratic approaches to the interpretation of Schulz’s work. Rather the opposite: these submissions radically reconfigure the assumptions made about the individual role different agents can have in a production chain and underlines the very nature of comics as an eternal score subjected to vagaries and contextual instantiations.