As usual, the title is simple and takes up to five words. The Cat is among us. It’s the 23e Cat’s album, and it was not expected so soon. But Philippe Geluck wanted to ensure a presence of the famous feline in the cultural landscape of 2020, since the pandemic has slowed down his first ambitions, he who was preparing to unveil an exhibition of monumental sculptures of the Cat on the Champs-Élysées, in Paris.
When you meet him in his Brussels workshop on a typical Belgian “drache” afternoon, he is inexhaustible on this exhibition, which was finally postponed to 2021. “I can’t wait to show the world these bronze sculptures, made with my friend François Deboucq. Some are environmentalists, another, inspired by the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, pays homage to my fellow cartoonists murdered in the attack on Charlie Hebdo. »
Freedom, yes, but …
Yes, Philippe Geluck is concerned about the threats posed to freedom of expression by the phenomena of a return to religion and political correctness. He is often asked to talk about it, in the French and Belgian media, as recently, on the sidelines of the assassination of Samuel Paty. But do not count on him to applaud President Emmanuel Macron defending absolute freedom to caricature. “I feel much closer to the position of Justin trudeau He said.
“I would not have held the same speech in the 1970s,” says the cartoonist. But I think you have to be sensitive to changes in society. Drawing the Prophet is unnecessary. I don’t find it necessary to insult a majority of Muslims who live their lives peacefully and practice their religion without harming anyone. These are the fundamentals that must be denounced. “
In The Cat is among us, as in the previous album, he draws women in burqas, attacking what he considers a radical and condemnable practice. He does this while remaining faithful to the style of the Cat: with an offbeat and never aggressive humor. Even if it means doing it a little lightly, if not a little off the subject, to make people laugh and surprise above all. This is the Geluck way. “If I weren’t there to answer the questions that nobody asks, I don’t know who would,” asks the Cat on page 6. That sums it all up.
I wouldn’t have said the same thing in the 1970s. But I think you have to be sensitive to changes in society. Drawing the Prophet is unnecessary. I don’t find it necessary to insult a majority of Muslims who live their lives peacefully and practice their religion without harming anyone. These are the fundamentals that must be denounced.
The man behind the cat
The Cat, since 1983, has remained true to itself, according to its creator. “He’s got a moron and candid side, but he’s very clever in his silliness, which allows him to take a fresh look at things. So let’s be careful not to see the friendly feline as a truly committed character. On the other hand, its creator is more and more with age. Signatory these days of a manifesto for a Christmas without Amazon, he also spent part of his spring confinement producing illustrations worrying about violence against women or the “unworthy” working conditions of healthcare workers.
“I want my social message to be expressed in a fine and subtle way in my drawings,” he says. But, in the media, it is something else, it is true; I open my mouth! »While keeping a certain sense of proportion, we get along. “For example, I worry about the polarization of opinions in our society. But I refuse to see it in black and white. I remain sensitive to the fact that, among the fans of Le Chat, there may be people with extreme opinions. Maybe the humor of the Cat touches them, and I have a duty to find the thread that unites me to them as humans. “
About the pervasiveness of technology, its prose is inexhaustible. If the Cat, behind the wheel of his car, is content to laugh when his GPS sinks into the twisted logic of hyperlinks, Philippe Geluck refines the subject in an interview.
“The digital worries me and excites me all at the same time. I was one of the first to own a Mac in the 1980s, but I quickly realized that it was going to bring death around me. I saw the disappearance of the craft professions of the guys who did photoengraving, for example. I also worry when new places of digital economic power are created that kill the small trader and local culture. Nothing more horrifying than the power of the GAFAS. “
Geluck, like his Cat in this 23e album, is also concerned about industrial meat production. “We have been warned about this for so long; my reading of the 1960s, like René Dumont and Ivan Illich, already mentioned it! Maybe technology will save us. As soon as it hits the market, I’ll rush over to the meat in vitro made from stem cells. “
The art of aging
Where Geluck most resembles the Cat, it is perhaps in a certain fear of old age which is expressed more and more from one drawing to another, in a casual philosophical tone. “The Cat is 37 years old; it’s very old for a cat! I don’t think he’s afraid of dying, but personally I think about it more than before. It has become more pronounced since the birth of my grandchildren. “
The album is thus tinged with a certain nostalgia and light reflections on the mystery of passing time. But as the Cat says: “the time is sometimes very long to achieve happiness; it is not so bad when there are enough left afterwards to remember that we knew him ”.