A Refugee’s Journey: Adapting Nick Sousanis’ “Grid and Gestures”

During the second lesson of the “Imaginative Communication” course [a Comparative Media course in which we explore the theme “To Say the Unutterable” by analyzing and comparing the depiction of Psychic Trauma in various visual media, from comics to animated & live-action movies, tv series or choreographies], I asked my Thai & exchange students at the Faculty of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University) to do the “Grid and Gestures” exercise developed by Nick Sousanis, professor of Humanities & Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University, and author of the groundbreaking comics dissertation Unflattening published by Harvard University Press in 2015.

[Course: Imgt Comm, 2800217, International Program, CommArts, Chulalongkorn University, 20 January 2020, with 35 students]

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Above and below: CommArts students at work on the “Grid and Gestures” exercise

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The purpose statement for the exercise provided by Nick Sousanis is as follows:

 “So here’s how to think about Grids & Gestures. Quickly, have a look at your ceiling tiles or other grid-ish things around you. If you then imagine putting these features to music, you might have regular long notes on the tiles, some shorter notes, and maybe rapid staccato beats on a ventilation grill. Ok, now come back to a comics page – and think about the idea that in comics, time is written in space. Comics are static – and it’s in the way we organize the space that we can convey movement and the passage of time. Unlike storyboards, to which comics are frequently compared, in comics we care not only about what goes on in the frame, but we care about the size of the panel, its shape, orientation, what it’s next to, what it’s not, and its overall location within the page composition. The way you orchestrate these elements on the page is significant to the meaning conveyed – there are some strong correspondences between comics and architecture in terms of thinking about the way the entire space operates together.

Having briefly thought about this, I want you to take a single sheet of paper (any size, shape will do) and drawing with a pencil or pen, carve it up in some grid-esque fashion that represents the shape of your day. It can be this day, a recent day, a memorable day, or a typical/amalgamation day. And then inhabit these spaces you’ve drawn on the page with lines, marks, or gestures that represent your activity or emotional state during those times represented. The emphasis here is to do your best to not draw things. (You can always do that later!) And also, you can leave space blank on your page – but that has to mean something. This isn’t writing where you can finish a final sentence mid-page. Every inch of the composition is important in comics – so be aware of that as well. Finally, when I do this in class or with groups, I give people about 5-10 minutes to do it, so they have to make decisions quickly. Try to give yourself a similar limit.”

Nick Sousanis (excerpted from this page)

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Above: CommArts student at work on the “Grid and Gestures” exercise

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“Grid and Gestures” by Thai student Nanz. Description: “(1) I wake up late so I started the page with the cloud shape which refers to my dream. Then I have to hurry to take a shower and prepare myself to go to the University. I go to university by BTS [skytrain] and the station is crowded. When I arrive at the station near the campus, I notice that the sky is gloomy. (2) Suddenly, it starts raining. I’m stuck at the station and I’m worried I’ll be late in class. Moreover, I’m hungry since I forgot to eat something this morning. I have to figure out the way to reach my Faculty on time. I try to book a Grab taxi but there is no response. I have to walk under the rain to try to catch a taxi. (3) Finally, I reach the Faculty and I’m in class on time. When the course is finished, I come back home and take a shower. Before going to bed, I watch a movie on Netflix. Then I go to sleep. :)”


Adapting the exercise to depict a refugee’s journey

After this first exercise was completed, I asked the students to draw a second “Grids and Gestures” page but, instead of depicting a personal day/travel/experience, they had to draw the perilous travel of Syrian refugee Rania Mustafa Ali, 20, who had filmed her journey from the ruins of Kobane in Syria to Austria.

“Her footage shows what many refugees face on their perilous journey to Europe. Rania is cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She risks drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with over 50. Those with disabilities are carried across raging rivers and muddy fields in their wheelchairs.” (The Guardian).

During the 22′ footage, some students drew the “Grids and Gestures” of Rania as her narrative was unfolding while other students preferred to take some notes and draw Rania’s grid right after the end of the film.

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Students watching, drawing and/or taking notes during the projection of Rania’s footage.
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Student Paar drawing Rania’s “Grid and Gestures” during the projection.
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Student drawing Rania’s “Grid and Gestures” during the projection.

The outcome has been positive as students focused [more than usual] their attention on the emotions and struggles experienced by the refugees, trying to capture Rania’s emotional states, and discovering -as they were drawing on a limited space- the physicality and volume of incessant ups-and-downs (hopeful/hopeless…) and turns of events (wait/treks/dead ends/returns) faced during these precarious and usually dramatic odysseys. I’ll try to find time to study the results of this experiment in detail, and see if it tends to raise awareness/mindfulness (Sati/สติ) and empathy towards refugees. A promising exercise.


Here are some of the “grids and gestures” depicting the journey of Syrian refugee Rania Mustafa Ali and composed by CommArts students:

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Ranias’s journey by Thai student Nanz.
Palmmy 02
Ranias’s journey by Thai student Palmmy.
Rika 02
Ranias’s journey by Japanese student Rika.
Paar 02
Ranias’s journey by Thai student Paar.
Meg 02
Ranias’s journey by Dutch exchange student Meg.
Por 02
Ranias’s journey by Thai student Por.
Ink 02

Ranias’s journey by Thai student Ink.
Pure 02
Ranias’s journey by Japanese exchange student Pure.

 

#ToSomeExtentChallenge

#ToSomeExtentChallenge: in-class creative assignment (“Introduction to Communication” course), at the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) on Monday 13, 2020; the 46 fresh.wo.men were asked to create -in teams of 2 or 3 participants- a graphic narrative within an imposed L-shaped layout, and to consider the spatialization of the narrative elements. Duration: 60′.

The constrained comics exercise was developed for the first “student” edition of the international comics residency-lab at Pierre Feuille Ciseaux on January 2019. The L-shaped layout is based on two comic strips dating from 1895 & 1905 (see below) found on the website Töpfferiana.


Idylle Lucy L-shape
Inspiration: two comic strips dating from 1895 & 1905 (see below) found on the website Töpfferiana.

CommDe fresh.wo.men @ work!


YL 3

YL 7

YL 2

YL 4

YL 6

YL 5

YL 1


And if you want to play with us, here are the 4 different layouts (with 4 or 5 panels).

Click on the layouts for larger sizes:

To Some Extent 4b

To Some Extent 4a

To Some Extent 5bTo Some Extent 5a

Polyptych Workshop in Taiwan (Sept 2019)

It was a challenging but wonderful 4-hour workshop on “Polyptych Constrained Comics” in Taipei with amazing Taiwanese and Malaysian cartoonists on Sunday, 22 September 2019. They did great on one of the most complex comics structure [where narrative sequences unfold on a continuous background]. It was such a pleasure to work and share with these talented folks! Thank you all for participating, Huang Pei-Shan and Slowork Publishing for the invitation, Carole Wenyao for translating, and ASW Tea House for hosting!

Workshop 05

Workshop 01

#UltraVioletChallenge – Part 2

The inaugural post explaining the constraints of the #UltraVioletChallenge exercise is available HERE.

For this post, I wanted to display results by students who never pursued any drawing formation. The 3rd and 4th Year Performing Arts students of my “Imaginative Media” course accepted the challenge, and the results are again interesting and varied… and fun!

#UltraVioletChallenge: “Making Sense of Signs (and Fragments)” in-class creative assignment (“Imaginative Media” course, Thai Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University); create a figurative comics based on an imposed abstract comics (duration: 90′). Based on a constrained comics exercise used at Pierre Feuille Ciseaux international comics residency-lab.

 

Imposed abstract comics page #UltraVioletChallenge
Imposed abstract comics page #UltraVioletChallenge
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Day and Prang.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Mean and Save.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Mui, Kitty and Dome.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Kay and Mew.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Gene and Yongyong.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Coon, Earth and June.

 

“No Escape” by Patrick McEown, CAN, 1999

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“No Escape” by Patrick McEown. Click on pic for full size. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown


No Escape by Patrick McEown (CAN), in: Dave Cooper’s Weasel #1, Fantagraphics Books, US, August 1999.

©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

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Excerpt of a 10-page non-linear/loop/polyptych comics. Pages 4, 5 and 6 of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. Arrows not in the original. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

To read the story in diaporama:

 

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To read the story in a full-size continuous polyptych, click on the picture below:

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“No Escape” by Patrick McEown. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

By two pages:

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Pages 1 & 2 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 3 & 4 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 5 & 6 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 7 & 8 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 9 & 10 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

“Glenn Ganges in: ‘Time Travelling'” by Kevin Huizenga, US, 2006


Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga (US), in GANGES #1, Fantagraphics Books, USA, 2006. More on Kevin Huizenga’s website (over here) and blog (over there).

Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga

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Page 1/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 2/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 3/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 4/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 5/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga

The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012


The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin (aka Mathieu Baillif, CH), in SplendeuRs et MisèRes du VeRbe, L’Association, France, 2012. More on Ibn al Rabin over here.

Copyright ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin

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Page 1/6 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Pages 2 & 3 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
Ibn al Rabin 3
Pages 4 & 5 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
Ibn al Rabin 4
Page 6/6 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin