Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gliding through the past and future and hopefully back to the present. (Here Richard McGuire)

I've always had a fascination with space, land and the places we consider shelters. How the nooks, crannies, and rooms within our houses, apartments, and other shelters interacts with us; how we give meaning, history, and culture to those spaces we inhabit; how those areas can mean so many different things to different people; how emotions and memory can emerge from the space and land we live and interact with daily; how those interactions and history and emotions and memories have vibrations and are able to “talk” to future generations with/without them knowing it.

These thoughts would swirl in my head for hours. I would go on walks and drives around my area to see and explore the dilapidated buildings and imagine what they were like when they were being inhabited.  I would want to know its history. I would want to interact its previous inhabitants, experience what they experienced.

There was another way to experience this, and that was through reading. .

I read about the history of certain buildings that fascinated me. I read about plots of land that struck a certain chord with me. I read books that dealt with the same ideas and themes that swirled in my head:

Landscape & Memory: Simon Schama wrote about how human culture formed and changed the landscape around them, leaving a residue behind that continues to interact with future generations.

The Poetics of Space: Gaston Bachelard wrote about how the spaces of a house (corners, attic, basements) interact and change human memories, emotions, and interactions.

Space & Place: Yu-Fu Tuan wrote about how we—people—are able to form an attachment to the space they inhabit: our home, neighborhood, community and even our nation.

I read Tim Cresswell's Place which talked about a sense of place and human geography. I read Senses of Place edited by Steven Feld & Keith H. Basso, which collected a series of essays on place and space. I read any other book that could fill my intense curiosity on such a subject.

And then I read Richard McGuire's Here.


In 1989, an experimental comic anthology called Raw published--Vol. 2, #1--a comic called Here by McGuire. It was a six-page comic that showed us the history of a corner of a house. In a page, there would panels-within-panels that showed the previous occupants of that corner. McGuire, within a few pages and panels, was able to travel back-and-forth through time to show us the history of that corner.

Flash forward to 2014, and now McGuire has expanded that six page comic into a 300-page comic.

In the first version of Here, McGuire used a grid to tell the story. Now, in its current version, McGuire uses a more cinematic effect. Instead of using a grid, McGuire uses double-splash pages, and within these double splash pages, McGuire is able to use panels in the splash to show the generations of people and nature that occupied that space. 

There's a rhythm I pick-up when reading Here. It feels as if I were hopscotching from panel-to-panel, from page-to-page.  Each word bubble, each text within the word bubble, each panel, each time shift feels like they should be there, McGuire has meticulously placed everything within this comic so you never feel like stopping. So you're moving with the flow of time, just like the corner of the house and its generations did.

And I could talk about how McGuire's soft color palette gives the Here a feeling of how we would perceive the passage of time: we're seeing the residues of past lives. I could talk about how McGuire's line further enhances that feeling. But...  I think what I really want to talk about is how Here is special for me. Not because of the human, holistic approach that McGuire brought that most the books I've read on the subject lacked--at times. Not the craft that McGuire brought, but the heavy emotional attachment I gave to Here. It threw me back in time: a time where I was still living in Cincinnati at my old house I lived in for 23 years. 

When came across a page where the ceiling was leaking: I thought the drops of water hitting my head like and the big splotch of brownish water damaged spot over my bed that was directly under me. Every night I would stare at it and I would always afraid that it would burst of moldy water come out and drown me. It never happened, though.

When I came across a page of people verbally fighting through generations: I thought of all the years I fought with my parents. Me running through the house, getting away from my Mom or Dad or both because they were going to give me a whupping for misbehaving. Me screaming at them or almost getting into fists with my Dad.

When I came across the page where nature came through the window: I thought of when my parents lost the house; a house they raised me in, loved, fought, and that they thought were going to die in; a house they went back to a couple months later they found a new house to rent and saw what damage has been down to it; a house that was immaculately cleaned was now in disarray. People broke in and stole some pipes, busted up and painted the walls, and stole a beautiful stained-glass window which allowed the elements to come in and further destroy the house we lived in. This chaotic scene broke my Mom's heart and she broke down and cried. And when she saw me, she told me; it broke my heart and I broke down and cried.

I was in Cincinnati visiting my parents when I read Here. And when I finished Here, I was in a state of flux: past battling present. Cincinnati was in a state of flux itself. It felt like everything around me was in a state of flux--well, it usually is, but I was more attuned to it. So in this mindset, I decided to see my old house.

I wasn't too far from my old house. So I took the car keys and drove to my old house. I parked across from where I lived and was amazed by what I saw. I saw there was a fountain in the front yard, some animal statues in the front porch, and a white brick fence on the side of the house. I saw the trees I used to climb were now gone, cut down. I saw the mini-basketball area I used to play in, was now gone. The house's present was battling my past impressions of it. This was too much to take in, so I left and I drove.

I drove through Cincinnati. I visited my old haunts. I visited the places that used to fascinate me. I saw the past and present and future all intermingled. Everywhere I looked, I felt like I could see its residue,  its previous occupants I saw myself slipping into a time-slip. I saw myself taking in all of Cincinnati. It was too much for me to bear. So I drove back home and saw Here waiting for me on my bed. I took the comic, placed under my pillow and sleep.

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