from the Comix Scholars Discussion List

What follows is an email posted by myself to the discussion list of the University of Florida Comics Studies programme earlier today:

I’ve been lurking for a few weeks on this list, and this is my first post – I’ll try to keep the introduction brief. I’m studying towards a Masters in Architecture at the University of Sheffield in the UK (http://www.shef.ac.uk/architecture). If all goes to plan, this will hopefully conclude in the summer of 2008. I’m also studying for one semester (via the Socrates-Erasmus programme) at the école nationale superieur d’architecture de Strasbourg in France.

My dissertation is provisionally titled ‘The Comic Architect’. It begins with the relatively established assertion that architecture is very poorly represented in the books, journals, magazines etc that are primarily used to promote and discuss it (see ‘This Is Not Architecture’, ed. by Kester Rattenbury for a good primer on this discussion). ‘Official’ photographs and images of buildings are usually made before the building is occupied by its intended users, and are usually sterile, timeless and people-less images that elevate the building from functional space to high art. There are even arguments for saying that some buildings (such as the Case Study Houses by Schulman and others in fifties California) were designed for their representation, since they were competing to be included in a popular magazine.

So, if architectural photography lacks time, narrative and a sense of character, can comic illustration techniques better represent architecture?

The dissertation will be submitted in November 2007, although I am extremely interested in taking it further, perhaps to a phd starting in 2008 or 2009. It will be an interdisciplinary study, but it will fundamentally attempt to examine the possibilities of one form of narrative representation in another context.

The project is being logged online at:

https://nowordsnoaction.wordpress.com/

and I invite you to browse the blog and post comments wherever you feel the urge.

“Martha Kuhlman” <mkuhlman@______.edu> wrote:

2) I like the articles in MFS winter issue, and I’d be eager to hear some reactions to them. In particular, what do people think of the article on Chris Ware? (Comics Architecture, Multidimensionality, and Time by Thomas Bredehoft). If you don’t have this issue or article, I would be interested in your opinion of Daniel Raeburn’s book on Ware published by Yale. Anything at all on Ware would be interesting, in fact.

Firstly, to Martha Kuhlman, thanks for flagging up an article and journal that had escaped my attention. My university has access via MUSE, so I’ll read the article over the weekend, but I can cerftainly comment on Raeburn’s book. More extensive thoughts on the book and my own subsequent thinking re: my project are blogged here:

https://nowordsnoaction.wordpress.com/2007/03/12/reading-daniel-raeburn-on-chris-ware-part-one/

https://nowordsnoaction.wordpress.com/2007/03/25/reading-daniel-raeburn-on-chris-ware-part-two/

Raeburn writes with the impression of some authority, and to me one of the most interesting points is the parallel between music and comics.

What you do with comics, essentially, is take pieces of experience and freeze them in time,” Ware says. “The moments are inert, lying there on the page in the same way that sheet music lies on the printed page. In music you breathe life into the composition by playing it. In comics you make the strip come alive by reading it, by experiencing it beat by beat as you would playing music…”

Daniel Raeburn, Chris Ware (Monographics)

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004, p. 25

Note also how Ware carefully controls the pace at which we experience the passage of time by the use of ‘silent’ panels, or repeating images that slow the pace right down. There’s a review of Ware’s ‘Acme Novelty Library #17’ in the recent April 2007 issue of the Comics Journal by Adam Stephanides which makes a similar observation.

This combination of irregularity with regularity, producing an almost Mondrian-like effect, creates a sense of rhythm, much more so than in Jimmy Corrigan or [Acme Novelty Library] # 165. In contrast, a page showing Alice looking for the bathroom is divided into 12 equal-sized panels, giving a feeling of stasis, as do two pages divided into six equal-sized panels, depicting Alice’s homesick memories of her old home and best friend. In a way, issue # 17 is a return to Ware’s early short comics, which were often about rhythm as much as anything else, but Ware’s approach to rhythm is much more sophisticated than in those comics.

Adam Stephanides, The Comics Journal no. 282, April 2007.

For me, it’s this control of the underlying ‘rhythm’ of a comic than interests me… could architects better explain or describe their buildings using these techniques than in traditional plans and sections, or photographs and renderings?

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  • ABOUT THE PROJECT

    "no words no action" was an experiment in academic blogging. The blog recorded the progress of reading, research and investigations that lead to a Masters in Architecture dissertation at the University of Sheffield in autumn 2007. You can find out more about the author's interest in blogging here.

    To find out more about the thesis, download the original dissertation proposal (pdf format) from February 2007 or the semi-formal first chapter (pdf format) from April 2007.

    Further research projects are in the works, and their dependence on human interaction and networking suggests more blogging will be inevitable when the time comes.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    At the time that this blog was created, James Benedict Brown was a fifth year Masters of Architecture student at the University of Sheffield. James' personal blog is here.

    James graduated in 2008 and now lives and works in Glasgow.


  • ABOUT THE TUTOR

    This project was supervised by Renata Tyszczuk at the University of Sheffield


  • ABOUT YOU

    If you want to correct me on something, offer an opinion on a particular artist or building, or if you'd like to recommend someone or something to find out about, please feel free to leave a comment. Just click on 'Comments' under the headline of the relevant post...


  • BOOKSHELF

    Click here to browse James' bookshelf, and to purchase books being used in this project.


  • CONFERENCE DIARY

    I've managed to miss almost half a dozen compelling conferences around the world so far this year, simply because I have no (more) money to travel and no time to escape my studies in Strasbourg and Sheffield. However, if I had a magic plane ticket and plenty of time, here's my selection of essential conferences to attend. Hopefully I'll be there for more of them next year... click here for the diary (updated every time I miss another one).


  • NOTE

    All images are used for illustrative purposes only, and the copyright remains with the artist and/or creator. Please contact me if I have misappropriated an image or incorrectly credited it. Thanks... JBB


  • SOME RIGHTS RESERVED

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    The content of this blog is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


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