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O Magazine

Stolen cartoons
Long-necked caviar

Long-necked caviar – O Productora Audiovisual

By Jordi Costa

As kids, we used to eat caviar. We ate so much caviar that, with the passing of time, we never understood that short sighted people who insisted again and again that what we had eaten (and still ate) wasn’t caviar. Let me explain the comparison: caviar is used to represent Ecstasy and Beauty. Those who, with time, got out of their way to tell us that our idea of caviar wasn’t The Idea of Caviar are those bores always trying to set up division and demarcation lines. In sum, those eager to tell us that yes, there’s Ecstasy and there’s Beauty, but what we recognised as such were, in fact, petty ecstasies and beauties: the stubborn hierarchical judges of taste, for whom there is a Culture with a capital C and another with a lower-case c, which is the popular one. In other words, those who discredit poor Anne Wiazemsky when, in A Busy Year, she dared revealing the following heresy: that Jean-Luc Godard had a great time watching Louis de Funès comedies, as unacceptable an idea as, possibly, the fact that Ingmar Bergman found in Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road to Morocco a perfect image to criticise his own Face to Face or the picturesque circumstance that someone as elusive and inaccessible as Terrence Malick says Zoolander is one of his favourite movies. Here we have, thus, the kind of person for whom it’s perfectly logical to look gravely at an Opisso work at the Museum of the same name at Hotel Astoria, but who wouldn’t get near a page of the same Opisso printed on the thick paper used for TBO. The artist was the same one, at the Astoria and on TBO. Beauty and Ecstasy were the same as well.

Us, seventies kids, learned what author policy was, precisely, thanks to TBO, which sometimes devoted special monographs to the most prominent authors in the house. That’s how we learned that there was a man called Coll, who used a clear and elastic line in his drawings, and that the high middle-class or low bourgeois poet of flattening clumsiness was Benejam. And also that a certain Opisso (a surname that sounded very weird and exotic to our ears) achieved the maximum excellence with his multi-coloured images of a Barcelona over-populated by recognisable human types that could have been extracted from our grandparents’ family photo albums.

It wouldn’t be until later on that an Opisso’s full-page illustration would inspire possible links with Jacques Tati’s imagery. Opisso had been a member of the Quatre Gats, had worked for Gaudí and had a past we then knew nothing about as political caricaturist and as sensual drawer of legs with suspenders, republican carnival party eroticism and bumper car courting. For us, Opisso was more a strange reporter of a Barcelona from the past than a cartoonist, but there was once a given cartoon page that went as far away from his usual drawings as of the magazines aesthetic guidelines: Ventajas de tener el cuello largo [The advantage of having a long neck], a story the author imagined way before Plastic Man and Reed Richards ever existed.

I know at least two versions or variations of the page Ventajas de tener el cuello largo: the first one (and I think the oldest), was made up of fifteen cartoons, and the one I’ve selected here is the fourth; and the second one, with twenty cartoons, of which a variation of the one I’ve selected is the seventh. Opisso creates on it a character with a giraffe neck that is perfectly functional and at ease in a reality that could well be the Barcelona from the twenties. Without any kind of continuing narrative, the different cartoons show the activities one would enjoy a great deal more should he/she count in the apparently monstrous anatomic alteration: lighting up a cigarette with a lamppost; touching the (very deep) bottom of the sea and still keep his head above water; watching a theatre show with no-ones head covering part of the stage; eating fruit directly from the trees; hiding one’s head under the trench coat in case of rain; engaging in face to face conversations with someone standing on a balcony; reading someone else’s newspapers; getting fresh air when driving a convertible; working as a sail’s post in a boat… Or, as we can see in today’s stolen cartoon, using picaresque to steal your neighbour’s drink through a straw at a terraced cafe. Ecstasy, Beauty, Caviar and two unheard of things: Catalan Picaresque and Delirious Imagery in the usually much more down-to-earth TBO aesthetic and ethical code.