Minis Monday: Nymphonomena

Posted by on December 20th, 2010 at 1:00 PM


From Betsey Swardlick’s “Your Earth Cats Are Delicious.” All art ©2010 by the respective artists.


Pat Barrett, Josh Kramer, Betsey Swardlick and Ben Horak
B&W; 50 pp.

Nymphonomena boasts as pronounced a sense of conceptual unity and creative camaraderie as any anthology I can readily recall. Preliminary credit probably should first go to a seemingly close-knit quartet of artists championing a sense of play while developing a really sweet idea. That idea begins with an inventive fabrication, a galvanizing, exotic fiction that delivers a message of love, compassion and acceptance to its audience.

It also includes the proposal for genital alteration, which is how the sly, worldly-wise and kinkily imaginative artists of Nymphonomena drive those otherwise fortuitous and ennobling motivations straight through mere enthusiasm toward devotion, obsession, disorientation and perversion… in a most light-hearted way.

Well, that’s a lot of abstract description without proper antecedent: “Nymphonomena” is the name given by Pat Barrett, Josh Kramer, Betsey Swardlick and Ben Horak to an imaginary movie that links together their stories. According to Stewart St. Samuels, the conciliatory host of the introductory segment by Barrett, “Nymphonomena” is a cult classic “with its camp story, unforgettable music, eminently quotable lines, and controversial take on sexuality.” In short it’s Rocky Horror with an attractive alien dispensing personalized accelerants.


From Josh Kramer’s “I Come From Space to Mate.”


Kramer’s “I Come From Space to Mate,” set in 1986, traces the awkward shift of a drone as he moves from a routine existence to Something Else Entirely due to repeated exposure to the movie. Swardlick’s “Your Earth Cats Are Delicious” depicts a less wrenching transformation for a younger woman, floundering (how else would you account for her watching a lot of A.L.F. in 2006?) before finding new purpose. This is the book’s longest segment and Swardlick makes the most of it. She offers a variety of settings and circumstances and, more importantly, gives the growing sense of involvement and excitement free reign in establishing momentum.

In Horak’s “How Can You Love Someone What Comes From Space?” passion takes a decidedly less healthy if still darkly humorous turn. Chronologically, the story takes place between the first two, in ’96, and through it more of the imbedded and interwoven elements of the collaborative construction reveal themselves. Breadth explicitly expands. The comic becomes not only wider but, even better, more creepy and more cool at the same time.

Confluences continue with “Let the Genital Commingling Commence” by Barrett, which, dropping back to 1976, looks in on cast and crew at work and play during the inspirational film’s shooting. Finally, the “Outro” by Horak retreats to ’73 to clear up some batted-about urban myth by divulging the beginnings of the whole cinematic shebang.

The movie’s secret origin, that last little bit of tying-up, really emphasizes the forethought given to what might otherwise have been a shambling funnybook amalgam. The quoted chapter titles above convey the underlying wit that runs cover to cover. Fake stills from the film pop up throughout. St. Samuels reappears with interstitial info. Imaginary dialogue appears as refrain; the arresting imaginary pose of interstellar significance is struck and restruck; backstory and side-stories are neatly supplied; even the movie’s unforgettably “famous last line” is dutifully divulged. Overcoming an early, rough contribution, Nymphonomena develops into a seductive, cohesively clever fantasy crazily riffing on creativity and consequence, transcendence and mania and personal purpose and social parameters.


Back cover to Nymphonomena.


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