Department of Geography
University College London
Near where I live in London is a neighbourhood called Hither Green. Hither Green, legend has it, was so named because of its relationship with Yon Green, which was just down the way and didn’t fare as well as Hither Green when London suburbanized (without a train station to anchor the place name, it disappeared). Hither and Yon, Here and There. To me Hither Green is indicative of a wider truth about geography: places, people, and things only gain meaning in relation to other places, people, and things. Indeed, it is the juxtaposition of people, places, and things that is the ultimate creative act, unleashing new meanings, narratives, and affects.
For me, this insight has animated my research on comic book geographies* in that when I see comics I see a topological space composed of images not in sequence, but laid alongside or near one another in provocative ways. They invite not so much a reading as an exploration, with the narrative invented and re-invented as I arrange and re-arrange the images in my mind to produce a montage that ‘fits’. Note that the montage isn’t on the page, or, more precisely, it isn’t only on the page. Surely, there is the comic, a materialized product of the artist’s creative energy (and the publisher’s capital). But the montage is far more than that; it is also the bringing together of the dead comic with the live reader, an unleashing of creative energy to produce the event of reading. This is the montage of a montage, and it hints at the web of relationships that compose the social world. In fact, it is probably better to think in terms of montaging, a process of constant interrelating, or conversely of maintaining isolation. The latter is not meant to be a negative contrast to the creativity and excitement of montage. Rather, it is a necessary hold – a delay – in the process of montaging that enables difference to emerge and distinguish itself before being exposed to wider currents. That, too, is exciting. Maybe the people of Yon Green should have delayed their montaging with wider London a bit longer.
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