Silent Sequential Narratives: Bearing Witness to a Unique Form

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Darren Diss, University of Lincoln, United Kingdom


    In 2010 I curated the exhibition ‘Silent Witnesses: Graphic Novels Without Words’. At the time my rationale for curating a show that focused on this aspect of visual storytelling was to celebrate the genre and to broaden understanding of the diversity of its means of expression. Twenty illustrators were represented, many with multiple graphic novels, so there was opportunity to compare working methodologies in terms of craft skill, but also there was the opportunity to scope the range of thematic material investigated in each ‘silent narrative’ work. When the exhibition opened and I viewed the work as a group, it gave me the chance to see some of the commonalities and links between the individual works. This opportunity revealed some unexpected and intriguing associations. On the occasions when I have had the chance to reflect on these since, I’ve also wondered what attracted me to this form of visual narrative in the first instance? By exploring these observations and discoveries, this article intends to investigate the mental and temporal representations constructed by the viewer in experiencing this type of narrative. What are the common structural devices and how do they support and emphasise the content? The article will look closely at two of the ‘silent’ graphic novels represented in the exhibition; ‘A-Z’ by Lars Arrhenius and Eric Drooker’s ‘Flood!’. Though each illustrator’s visual signature is distinct they invite the viewer to wander, inhabit and dwell in spaces and places that causes these to linger in the memory long after they are encountered. What is it about this particular form of narrative that compels us to look? What are the unique qualities of this cross cultural form that hold the viewer’s attention?