Christian Long

Ben Katchor: Comics of Old New York

In TED Talks on April 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Reflection by CALVIN G.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Ben Katchor:  Comics of Old New York

Ben Katchor creates comic strips far a magazine called Metropolis. These comic strips are geared toward architects and many of the stories pertain to architecture. Though these comic strips tell a story they are also brilliantly poetic. Through the authors poetry he connects things that normally people wouldn’t even notice.

At the end of these comic strips there is usually a twist.

My favorite comic strip of his is titled The Faulty Switch (which is shared in the video). It starts out by talking about a new building but then he is quick to say it is ruined by the sound of the light switches. This got my mind thinking. How could the sound of a light switch ruin a beautifully crafted building? Then he goes into very deep and poetic detail about it. He explains that the architect that designed the building used a brass switch plate for the light switch and that the sound that is created from this is comparable to “a dirty men’s room in the rear of a Greek coffee shop”.

He then goes on to describe the importance of what a normal light switch should sound like and tells us of its sentimental importance. For example he claims that the sound of the light switch gives us the first impression of any room we are about to enter. He also describes turning on a light switch as “the modern triumphful clarion proceeding us through life announcing our entry into every lightless room” and the act of turning off the switch as “a deep melancholy ring”. Those two lines had me thinking and basically summed the whole story up for me.

At first I was really focused on the light switches but then I thought about earlier in the video when he spoke about these comics being for an architectural magazine. It was then that I realized that he is trying to show the importance of paying attention to detail as an architect. That people subliminally notice things as small as a light switch.

I would encourage you to watch this video with an open mind and try to absorb everything he offers in these comics and hopefully you will enjoy one of them like I have.


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