I mentioned in my talk that, on the flight when I first began thinking of plots of land as possible "found" abstract comics, I did not have a camera with me. However, in July 2011, when I flew to deliver said talk, I took a camera on purpose, got a window seat, and photographed my way to San Diego. Then I put together from four of those shots (slightly manipulated in Photoshop) this strip, as one of my pieces for Carousel Magazine's 4Panel, to which I am a regular contributor. You'll recognize the caption text:
(Note: this is a paper I delivered in July 2011 at the Comic Art Conference, the annual academic meeting of comics scholars held in conjunction with the San Diego Comic-Con, in a session organized by Matt Smith and Randy Duncan. I've been meaning for a while to expand it and publish it, but as 2012 turns into 2013, I'm realizing that I've sat on these ideas for long enough and that I should get them out there sooner rather than later; so I will post it here for now as delivered, and hopefully start a conversation in view of a future expansion. Please note the qualifications and excuses in the opening paragraph of the talk. Calling my approach "impressionistic" still strikes me as right, even though I believe that each point could be defended at much greater length with reference to specific texts. That being the case, please try to read the essay"poetically" if nothing else, listening for the--possibly only metaphorical--parallel between science and the comics genre to which this blog is devoted. One more thing: a full bibliography would be longer, but here were the main books that were on my desk as I wrote this, and from which I scanned all the images below that come neither from comics nor from Google Earth: Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice: The Mathematics of Chaos,1990; Ian Stewart and Martin Golubitsky, Fearful Symmetry: Is God a Geometer?, 1992; James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science, 1987; Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature, 1984; Hermann Weyl, Symmetry, 1952; Ludwig von Betalanffy, General Systems Theory, 1969; Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma, 1983; Edward N. Lorenz, The Essence of Chaos, 1995. Oh, and now you can see. I hope, why I chose to preface this post by posting the entirety of The World is An Abstract Comic three days ago. The illustrations below are taken from the Powerpoint slides I used in my talk.)
When I gave Randy and Matt the topic for this talk, I did not realize that, in researching it, it would become quite as complex as it since has. In order to fulfill the promise of the abstract, I fear, this talk would need to be twice as long. However, only to treat a small part of it might not convey the full significance of the issue. Therefore this talk will end up being less detailed than I would have liked it to be. It deals with a number of related notions connected to the scientific—physical or chemical, and even sociological—concept of “system”; yet I will need to treat these subjects rather impressionistically. For example, when using a notion such as that of vector field, I will not have the time to give the specific mathematical definition of it, but I trust that the notion of a--in our case--two dimensional field structured by directional vectors should be at least intuitively clear.
This is a series I did back in 2008, using screen caps from Google Earth. If you go to my posts from June 2008 on blotcomics.blogspot.com, you can find the identities of the various landscapes. I will leave them captionless here.
this is from Le's works at Art Vietnam Gallery. I'm uncertain whether it's best described as calligraphy or calligraphic art. Le Quoc Viet (or Quoc Viet LE) is a member of the Zenei Gang of Five calligraphy group, who held an exhibition titled Wordless Vô Ngôn at Art Vietnam in 2010.
The artists assembled by Andrei Molotiu for his anthology ABSTRACT COMICS (Fantagraphics, $39.99) push “cartooning” to its limits... It’s a fascinating book to stare at, and as with other kinds of abstract art, half the fun is observing your own reactions: anyone who’s used to reading more conventional sorts of comics is likely to reflexively impose narrative on these abstractions, to figure out just what each panel has to do with the next.
--Douglas Wolk, New York Times Book Review, Holiday Books edition, December 6, 2009 The collection has a wealth of rewarding material... it is a significant historical document that may jump-start an actual new genre.
--Doug Harvey, LA Weekly It becomes a treat to take a page of art - or a simple panel - and consider how the shapes, texture, depth, and color interact with one another; to reflect on how, when one takes the time, the enjoyment one ordinarily finds in reading a purely textually-oriented, narrative-driven written story can - with the graphic form - be translated into something completely different.
--Adam Waterreus, Politics and Prose, "Favorite Graphic Literature of the Year."
...this arresting book is like a scoop of primordial narrative, representational mud. Which is to say, it has vitaminic powers.
For years, comics (at least American ones) have doggedly refused for one reason or another, to consider other schools of art and beyond mere representation. It's only now we see artists attempting to branch out and try to push at the edge's of the medium's definition. As such I found Abstract Comics to be a revealing, thought-provoking and genuinely lovely book that I'll be sure to be rereading in the months to come.