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Book Review: Lobismuller


Book Review Lobismuller By Laia Abril Reviewed by JC Gonzo In Northern Spain, folklore goes that a female child born on the eve of Christmas or Good Friday, or who happens to be the 7th or 9th in a consecutive line of female children, is destined to be a lobismuller—or, werewolf.
Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017. 
 
Lobismuller
Reviewed by JC Gonzo

Lobismuller.
By Laia Abril.
RM, Madrid, Spain/Mexico, 2017. 192 pp., 107 illustrations, 7¾x10¾x½".  

In Northern Spain, folklore goes that a female child born on the eve of Christmas or Good Friday, or who happens to be the 7th or 9th in a consecutive line of female children, is destined to be a lobismuller—or, werewolf. Lobismuller is where Laia Abril draws the title and theme of this monographic study on Spain’s mysterious “wolven” serial killer, beginning with its very definition; though describing its male counterpart, a lobishome—immediately arousing contention within the gendering of this myth. Manuel Blanco Romasanta (born Manuela) is Spain’s first documented serial killer, active during the early mid-19th century in Galicia, he murdered at least 13 victims. Abril’s succession of images range from documented ephemera to stylized landscapes of the region in which Romasanta was active, making Lobismuller an unusual experience that shifts between a literal and metaphorical case study.

Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.
Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.

Noted for skill in “women’s work” (weaving, cooking, etc.), Romasanta was deemed effeminate by the men of his society. The ambiguity around Romasanta’s gender identity echoes his self-proclaimed werewolf curse, both an invisible identity. After undergoing a convulsive episode, he purportedly transformed and attacked his victims — women and children — and utilized their body fat to make soap. He would peddle their belongs and sell this human-derived soap in neighboring towns. Eventually arrested in 1852 and sentenced to execution the following year, Romasanta pleaded his werewolf affliction. Queen Isabella II pardoned him to allow doctors to investigate his supernatural condition, though nothing unusual was found. Much is left lingering in the mind after investigating the curious events that befell the famine-stricken societies of Galicia. What motivated him and why? What degree of insanity informed these murders?

Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.

Abril’s creative liberties with these events manifest in the arrangement of text, images, and the manipulation of the book itself. She unfolds this story carefully, eventually breaking past its journalistic structure into a realm of post-photography; suggestively melding images with illustrations and historical texts. Crumbling facades, roaming livestock, and quaint horizons become increasingly disjointed by graphic stylings or by reproduced ephemera presented as inserts. When the body itself appears, it is often too amorphous to identify with. The visceral nature of Abril’s imagery both intensifies and accelerates in a narrative arc as each seemingly innocuous image gets colored by the morbid information provided in the pages prior. Perception itself becomes aware to the viewer while intaking Abril’s unique perspective on the Romasanta legend and Lycanthrope mythos. She ultimately presents intersexuality, recalling Romasanta’s differing gendering at birth.

Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.
Lobismuller By  Laia Abril. RM, 2017.

Lobismuller is an uneasy investigation. It fulfills the fear and paranoia associated with the werewolf mythology itself, more concerned with dis-identity and otherness than the violent crimes committed. Sexuality and gender as elements governed by an imposed social order leaves little to no space for deviation, a basic concept as prevalent in today’s society as it was in 19th century Galicia. It brings Abril’s well-crafted reconstruction of this legend right into the present conversation of sexual politics and the stigma of not abiding by the gender binary. — JC Gonzo

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JC GONZO  is an artist and writer from El Paso, Texas. He currently writes for Sensitive Skin Magazine, and has written for White Fungus, L_A_N, and held an art column in the Berlin-based porn site Dandy Dicks. He works both as a solo artist and as a collaborator in the Third-Mind concept, The Product Division. He earned his self-designed BA in ‘Sexual Liberation As Art’ at the College of Santa Fe in 2011 and is currently based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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