Let Me Feel Your Finger First talks about Uncle Hans-Peter and those homo zombies
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Let Me Feel Your Finger First talks about Uncle Hans-Peter and those homo zombies

Uncle Hans-Peter

Uncle Hans-Peter

APEngine talks to comics project Let Me Feel Your Finger First. The Uncle Hans-Peter Party is at the ICA, London, on 17 November 2009,  as part of Comica,  the London International Comics Festival. All guests get a mask, a copy of the new comic, Das Familienoberhaupt, and a CD featuring Escapade, the Uncle Hans-Peter Theme by Fil OK.

What or who is Let Me Feel Your Finger First?

I suppose it’s a pseudonym – and a family of drawn comic characters. It’s a kind of sham production company as well. It was originally a way of self-publishing comics, so comics were the start of it. And it’s just kind of developed from that. It exists now partly as a pseudonym, partly as a comic art project which is part of my practice.

A comic art project that which has expanded to films, a website, products and live events and performance.

It started as name and a comic. And from the comics I started with the animation because that seemed like a very logical step – to animate some of the characters. Then I started producing narratives for the online comic and it’s just continuing to evolve. The latest area is these live events which will involve some kind of animation, some kind of performance aspect, but will always involve the characters. The characters are at the forefront of our work.

How would you describe them? You call them a family.

It’s a family of misfits; a group of characters who all have a very antagonistic relationship to each other. The family exists in couples, or they couple up all the time, in a very classic cartoon way – Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd kind of thing. And the characters are either manipulated or manipulative or sometimes both.

They’re not all related to each other.

Some of them are related. Some of them just exist within the family, but Uncle Hans-Peter is the patriarch of the family. And he’s someone who’s appeared within the last couple of years. His nephews Cute Punk and Clem were a couple of the original characters and they’ve generated an uncle along the way who’s now become patriarch. So there’s a kind of genetic relationship supposedly between these characters. And then some of the other characters – there’s Kind Dog who’s Uncle Hans-Peter’s dog, there’s Uwe who’s a new character who’s going to appear in the Uncle Hans-Peter’s Party, who’s Uncle Hans-Peter’s handyman.

They’re a pretty disturbing bunch of people aren’t they? They’re sexual predators, they’re describes as ‘defectives’. What are you doing there? You’re not flirting with something; there’s a serious intent isn’t there?

Part of the intention, which was not an original intention, is to look at cartoon characters and the conventions of animated characters. Someone like Francis appeared very much because of animation – a particular type that somehow has just been created within the world of animation. So – whether it is Disney or whoever – part of the project is looking at that animation. And then creating hybrid characters – some of the, as you say, sexual predators. They refer further back than modern cartoons, to fairytales or graphic illustrations from 16th century Germany. I don’t think it’s an examination of these things; it’s an appropriation of some of these things and where it goes, I don’t know to be honest.

Well it’s also, it seems to me, using and commenting and critiquing cartooning but to comment also on things where live action would be simply just Grand Guignol horror…

Absolutely. I think the fact they were comics to start with is really important, because when you’re drawing comics or writing comics there’s a real directness about what comes out. So a lot of the gunk in my head just kind of, you know, comes out on to the page and live action wouldn’t do it any justice.

The fact that it’s drawn, the fact that it utilises this stream of consciousness pen to paper thing, which is a really strong component to the graphic novel genre, and even animation to some extent.

There’s that quickness but then it’s worked isn’t it?

It’s kind of evolved – into this family of characters and into something organised in some way.

It’s a pretty radical project isn’t it? You’re dealing with real and disturbing subjects, things that you’re not celebrating but forcing the viewer to confront.

It’s definitely a provocation. At the same time it’s not intended as, say, a comment about paedophilia or anything like that, but it’s a provocation in terms of how the audience respond to it.

A film like Homo Zombies is explicit in one sense but there’s a lot of stuff that’s only suggested and implied in the work.

Definitely. With Homo Zombies people often read it as a satire on gay life but it was never originally intended as that. It was much more about an attraction to the aesthetics of zombies. But there’s definitely a lot of stuff which is suggested and left. The work’s becoming more obscure I think. Or it’s becoming more complex in some way. I don’t really know how to describe it.

I think they are things that you don’t have to do – tricks that you might have had to use early on that you don’t now…it becomes refined! But without losing its potential to be very creepy indeed.

Sometimes people have talked to me about it as if it’s a very direct kind of social comment. And it’s not. I don’t think it works quite like that. There are things which the work looks at but I don’t think it’s always that. You know, a reading of it where you’re saying this is about the hysteria in modern day culture related to paedophilia or this is a direct comment on gay culture. These are themes and stuff which are part of my practice and areas of interest in my practice, but because it has this comic cartoon format I hope it’s moving it somewhere else slightly…

It’s more broadly radical isn’t it, in the way that, queer radicalism isn’t just about homosexuality anymore. It’s a different kind of oppositional strategy would you say?

Yes. It’s a provocation. It’s always been a provocation. The name is a provocation in itself. Esther Leslie has kind of awakened something in me in that she’s made this reference in the essay she’s written for the new comic about how Hansel from Hansel and Gretel puts his, you know, he’s putting his finger into the edible house and the witch is going to…

The ginger bread…

That’s it! It’s…let me see your finger first…

That refining thing, yet maintaining the ability to disturb, seems very clear in the comic books and films, but at the ICA party, where people are taking part, it’s opening up again. What can people expect?

It’s a hybrid of these different things. It’s part of the Comica Festival and very much going back to the comic as the first point of departure. So it’s in some sense a live comic in that the audience all assume the persona of the protagonist Uncle Hans-Peter.

Everybody has an Uncle Hans-Peter mask and they’re in a space where they hear a story, a narrative which examines Hans-Peter’s persona in some sense. They’re also introduced to Uwe at this point. So that’s one element of it. And then there’s a theme tune – Uncle Hans-Peter’s theme tune – which is part of the event. And he is also present in animated form and he addresses the audience, partly on the nature of the re-producible artwork but he’s also suggesting perhaps how they might read their role in this work. So he’s in some way he’s kind of intervening as well I suppose.

And is there jelly?

No. But it’s a good idea. No unfortunately there’s no jelly.

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