Exercise 3 – Visual conventions for time and place

As for all the exercises of this course the scope of research is very large and I always get the frustrating feeling that I am just dipping my little finger in the ocean and never have the time to take a good swim. I am asked to look for examples of visual representations of place and time and make a research taking some key words as a start.

Before googling words in I tried to think about what types of time and place representations are more meaningful to me personally, apart from cartoons and comic strips that seem the most obvious associations, and the first thing that came to my mind was the medieval fresco cycle in the Church of San Francesco at Assisi.

Frame-by-frame example

Fig. 1 Saint Francis cycle in the Upper Church of San Francesco at Assisi (between 1297-1300)

Whenever I visit a church and see sequential frescoes on the walls I think that in the Middle Ages, when most people could neither read or write, the walls decorated with religious episodes and the lives of the saints must have been for them a wonderful way to learn and relive them visually in time and place.

For a total change of time, place and type of visual storytelling, I post a frame from a graphic novel that I find particularly appealing, Captain (2011) by Serena Malyon. Movements and passing of time are very effectively represented through changing points of view and perspective in foreground and at a distance.

Handling of perspective example

Fig. 2 Graphic novel Captain (2011) by Serena Malyon

In this at the same time Futurist and Cubist painting by Marcel Duchamp the artist conveys movement by overlapping the positions taken in place and time by the figure descending the staircase.

Multiple viewpoints example

File:Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase.jpg

Fig. 3 Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) by Marcel Duchamp

Figure 4 and 5 are from the comic strip Donald Duck Lost in the Andes (1949) by Carl Barks.

Frame-by-frame example, with use of written sounds

Fig. 4 Comic strip Donald Duck Lost in the Andes (1949) by Carl Barks

Frame-by-frame example, with use of speech bubbles, written sound and visualisation of action and movement

Fig. 5 Comic strip Donald Duck Lost in the Andes (1949) by Carl Barks

The History of Mexico mural (1929-1935) by Diego Rivera, in the stairwell of the National Palace in Mexico City, is an epic example of single frame visual storytelling.

Fig. 6 Mural The History of Mexico (detail) by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City

Political cartoon by Martin Rowson (The Guardian)

Single frame example

Fig. 7 Cartoon from The Guardian by Martin Rowson

As another example of time/place representation I have found this informative video which uses diagrams to show population changes in time in different parts of the world.

Moving image example

Fig. 8 video Human Population Through Time (2016) of the American Museum of Natural History.

The Bayeux Tapestry (XI century) is an example of frame-by-frame storytelling.

Fig. 9. The Bayeux Tapestry (detail) (XI century)

This short foray in time and place representation has surprised me because it does not seem that, even if visual conventions have of course evolved through time and from place to place, the ways of visualising have really changed all that much. After all we today do not have difficulties in understanding by and large the events represented in Giotto’s frescoes or in the Bayeux tapestry, as if  we as humans had a common visual ground that remains basically the same.


List of illustrations

Figure 1. Saint Francis cycle in the Upper Church of San Francesco at Assisi (between 1297-1300) [fresco] At:http://www.itacaeventi.it/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/sanfrancesco-parete-est.jpg (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 2. Malyon, Serena Captain (2011) [graphic novel] At: https://smalyon.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/swpage5.jpg (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 3. Duchamp, Marcel  Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (French: Nu descendant un escalier n° 2) (1912) [oil on canvas] source: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51449.html?mulR=864354163 At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Duchamp_-_Nude_Descending_a_Staircase.jpg (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 4, 5. Barks, Carl Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes (1949) At: http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/12/26/donald-duck-lost-in-the-andes/ (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 6. Rivera, Diego The History of Mexico (1929-35) [mural] At: https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6022/6018815950_3c84923614_b.jpg (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 7. At:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2016/nov/04/martin-rowson-on-newspapers-reaction-to-the-brexit-high-court-ruling#img-1  (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 8. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmA3Q0_OE (Accessed 27/02/2017)

Figure 9. At: http://www.mondes-normands.caen.fr/italie/cultures/gb_fr/5/pic5-1d.htm  (Accessed 27/02/2017)


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