Over the last few years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had an ongoing public conversation as I developed this work through conferences and talks. This has also included previous interviews, including in venues based in Russia, Alaska, Microsoft (which also put on an exhibition of the work), the UK, and in the Chronicle before I'd drawn anything. This most recent article, sprang from a feature mentioning the work in the Chronicle on this year's MLA meeting. Also, in the interest of completeness, Liz Losh, author of Understanding Rhetoric in comics form, included the work in her recent post on comics and scholarship.
Along these lines, lately I’ve been talking about how when I studied mathematics (my undergraduate work), people would say to me, ‘oh, you’re so smart.’ When they know about my work in comics, they’ll say, ‘you’re so talented.’ As I reflect on it now, I think I was talented at mathematics, whereas I see the art I do as smart – and as I said in the article, by collaborating with the visual, my comics are smarter than the work I do in text alone. These arbitrary labels, these boxes we divide ourselves into, that put a limit on what we can be.
In relation to all this, I want to share one new page here that speaks to the unique quality of comics to do two things at once – hold two ideas in a single space – which is also very much where my philosophical concept of unflattening evolved from. In this page from the chapter “Ruts” (regarding the patterns of behavior, the ways of seeing in which we find ourselves entrenched), I wanted to demonstrate commuting as a kind of rut, and contrast it with my wife’s commute – a non-repeating dance around the city taking her to various locations in unique configurations each day. I connected this to the Situationist’s idea of the dérive – literally to drift. Most likely I will talk about this page as part of one of my sessions at the upcoming AERA conference, and my thoughts on it grow out of a presentation there last year on how the work isn’t about illustrating ideas rather it’s having the visual embody the ideas. Here, I thought about how my wife’s paths mapped onto the NYC map could drift across the page while statically in the background, the repetitive commute becomes pattern. It’s a simple enough of an idea – but one I think is richer in comics form in the ways that the two visually contrast and speak to one another.
Finally, on a more personal note, I’m buying yogurt now with use-by dates beyond the expected arrival of my wife’s and my first child, so this site will likely be a bit silent as we welcome that new experience and I try to bring the dissertation to a close. (I'm sharing my original outline here, I've got the final two columns to draw!) I do have one more post planned before then – a request for some crowdsourcing legwork (or footwork!) for something for the final chapter. Stay tuned and thanks for the support. Onward. – Nick