Germán Andino addresses Honduran gang violence in the #NoHumanIsAlien exhibition at U-M
Comic-based journalism, where an artist tells reported stories with his or her drawings, has the benefit of addressing sensitive issues with a bit of emotional distance that doesn't always exist in the more immediate video- and audio-based storytelling. It can also give reluctant participants the freedom to tell their difficult and dangerous tales without a direct visual representation, which could put their lives at risk.
Joe Sacco is a pioneer of graphic journalism as shown in his many books, including Palestine (2001), Safe Area Gorazde (2002), and Journalism (2013). In Sacco's wake a mini-movement of graphic journalism has emerged, such as Sarah Glidden’s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (2016), Wendy MacNaughton's Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words (2014), and Germán Andino's El Hábito de la Mordaza / The Habit of Silence (2016).
Andino's work was published by the Spanish newspaper El País and earned him the 2017 Gabo Award in the Innovation category. Through April 6, Ann Arbor visitors will have a chance to see the story leap off the page and onto the walls of U-M's Mason Hall with the exhibition #NoHumanIsAlien: An Exhibition of Germán Andino's "The Habit of Silence."
For five years, Andino conducted interviews with people in the Honduran cities where he's lived about the effects of gang violence in Central America. The exhibition presents large-scale prints of Silence story panels, which span 100 meters (328 feet). But art is just the method Andino chooses to relay his interviewee's stories, which are the most important part of his work.
"What's interesting about Germán is that he doesn't consider himself to be an artist," said current U-M Knight Wallace fellow Alberto Arce in a press release; he's a long-time collaborator with Andino who illustrated Arce's book Blood Barrios: Dispatches From the World's Deadliest Streets. "He considers himself to be a reporter who draws, which is actually a debate that is happening in modern journalism right now.
"There are certain things that words and videos and photos cannot show," Arce said, "especially when you're reporting on gangs, where there's a lot of violence and not a lot of access -- not to mention the fact that graphic depiction is also a very useful tool when you're reporting on things that happened in the past."
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.
"#NoHumanIsAlien: An Exhibition of Germán Andino's 'The Habit of Silence'" on the 2nd floor of U-M's Mason Hall, 419 S. State St., Ann Arbor. Admission is free and open to the public 8 am-8 pm daily. An opening reception with Andino takes place on March 26, 5-6:30 pm, at Mason Hall.