Inkers and Thinkers 2015: Art in Space by Ronnie Scott

Comics has historically been considered an art of time. Narrative depends upon events arranged in some sequence, and comics is a narrative medium. Yet more than ‘sequential art’, after Eisner’s definition, comics is the narrative medium perhaps best-suited for radically departing from the sequence. This can mean nonlinear temporal progressions, but can also mean narratives that foreground space. This paper will explore the methods employed by three present-day American artists who have used the medium of comics to explore space, privileging these three dimensions over the dimension of time. Blaise Larmee’s work engages the medial limits of comics, transposing comics from digital publishing formats to print formats and back again; Jimenez Lai is an architect who employs the comics medium to explore theoretical, experimental architectural forms; and Chris Forgues (CF) has employed an unusual kind of grid to dislodge the reader’s sense of both space and time, in an attempt to ‘make nothing happen’ – to show stasis, or stillness. All three artists explore, foreground, and problematise the dimensional properties of comics. Moreover, as engagements with space and time are the defining properties of different narrative media, I argue that all three artists produce metanarratives, commenting not only on comics, but on narrative itself. Through close-reading these artists’ works, and applying techniques adapted from text-based narratology, this paper argues that comics can be an art of time, but is also expressly suited to explore ideas of space. In doing so, comics is a radical narrative medium. Departing less from sequential time than from time itself, comics forces us to ask whether narrative can exist without it.

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