Mobile app
Plan your visit to the Museum, check out current events and visit our exhibitions with our Mobile App.
Download Close
Przejdź do głównej treści

//In a dream World// Sebastian Frackiewicz

In a dream World Sebastian Frackiewicz

For Anke Feuchtenberger, drawing is a way to reach your own subconscious. Although this strategy has been present in comic book for the longest time, her new album, Somnambule shows that it can still work.

The French master of the graphic novel, Moebius, who passed away this year, used to say that for him drawing was like dreaming. It enabled him to enter into a different state of consciousness.

It was as if he was entering into direct contact with his own self, skipping over his brain and all the rationality. When he was young, he would sometimes take drugs to help himself achieve this state (which he called the picture dream). Afterwards he learned to manage without. This conviction that drawing was an automatic, spontaneous process and an opportunity to express what could not be said with words was also shared by Aleksander Zograf. During bombing raids, this Serbian underground author put himself into the state of the so-called conscious dreaming, and then, right after waking up, he drew sketches to register the fleeting visions. Anke Feuchtenberger’s pictures presented in Somnambule are also inspired by the same faith in the power of image, free from any intellectual filter. ‘I did not want to draw words. I wanted to dream while drawing. I actually always want it when creating my pictures, because it seems to me that the subconscious is the most precious of all narrative materials. It is strongly linked to our body and therefore also to our animal side’, she says in an interview that is also the album’s afterword. She also adds that she would not like her comic book to be interpreted with psychoanalytic symbols. We are to follow the dream. However, despite the author’s intentions, the Freudian perspective seems to be convenient, even if describing deliberately illogical visions with a logical sequence of sentences may seem insufficient.

Although it may seem, at least in Poland, that Somnambule is an original and quite unique work, when we consider the European tradition of independent or avant-garde comic books, we will see that the album is not that innovative at all. It is in fact a perfect representative of its own time (first published in 1998). Ever since the 1990s, French, Swiss and German artists experimented with the language of comic books, insisting more on their visual layer and trying to free it from any strict and traditional narration. This trend was visible in the work of Martin Tom Dieck and artists connected with the Swiss magazine ‘Strapazin’, the French publishing house Fremok, and Anke Feuchtenberger’s comic strips.

The album contains several short stories. Their heroines are either women or a woman-rabbit character with long ears. Although quite often inspired by literature, the stories do not have classic plots. They are more of a graphic register of fears, doubts and drives. The heroine of the graphic novella March in a Museum is terribly afraid of something (we will not learn what exactly) that hides behind a mysterious door, lurking in the shadows. In the Greenhouse, we witness a strange ritual with a man playing the main role. In other novellas, we notice the recurring motif of skulls, the moon or a cut-off head, which, in the context of the author’s ‘dreaming’ experiments may be interpreted for instance as questions about identity or struggle with one’s own desires. Actually, Somnambule is hardly a comic book to be read in the classic, linear way. It offers a form of contact with disturbing images that can inspire various emotions, from fear to uneasiness and surprise. It would not be so, of course, without the austere, sometimes even aggressive graphic layer. The straight, strong strokes and resolute use of black are definite advantages of the album. Feuchtenberger quite often omits the background, placing her heroines in some kind of unidentified space or empty rooms, which alienates the characters and makes the whole story even more unreal. Most importantly, the ‘dream while drawing’ method works for Feuchtenberger. While reading Somnambule, we definitely get the impression that someone invited us to their own subconscious. Not everyone has the courage to do so and to share such intimate matters with readers.


Sebastian Frackiewicz (born 1982) – cultural journalist and comic book critic. Between 2007 and 2012, he run the comic book review section in ‘Przekroj’. His articles appeared in ‘Lampa’, ‘Newsweek’, ‘Film’, ‘Aktivist’ and on web portals such as Filmweb and dwutygodnik.com. Currently associated with ‘Polityka’, ‘Tygodnik Powszechny’ and ‘Take Me’. Runs a blog about comic books: http://komiks.blog.polityka.pl/