“Thai Consent”, guest talk & traumics composition

Bangkok, 11 February 2020. This semester for the “Imaginative Media: [How to Tell the Unutterable]” course at the Faculty of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University), our distinguished guest is khun Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, founder of the Thai Consent platform which aims at providing [testimonial and illustrated] references for victims of sexual abuse who need useful materials to understand themselves better. An inspiring & challenging talk on the critical issues of sexual abuse, rape culture, consent and representation. After studying the mechanisms of Psychic Trauma and its depictions in tv series, movies, choreographies or graphic novels, our students will compose trauma-related short comics [or #Traumics] on sexual abuse, and will present them to khun Nana in a month. Later, students will also propose various [innovative] campaign ideas to promote & support the Thai Consent platform.
Also on FaceBook: Thai Consent
Thank you/merci/khopkhunkhrap khun Nana!

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Khun Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, founder of the Thai Consent platform, with the students of the International Program in Communication Management, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.
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Khun Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, founder of the Thai Consent platform, discussing issues of representation.

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

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

 

#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.

 

“Nailed”, a Silent Graphic Narrative by a Student of the ‘Imaginative Communication’ Course (Nov. 2016)

“Nailed” is a silent graphic narrative by Thai student Rattanakorn (Mim) for the IMGT COMM course (2800217), November 2016. In response to a video (see below) where a young child is the victim of a cruel joke perpetrated by adults, her comics captures how the child’s inner world is shattered by the traumatic psychological abuse and how it will affect his late life.

Description of the Imaginative Communication course: “Methods of conversing emotions, feelings, ideas, values, beliefs and meaning of life through the languages of the imaginative world in the form of poetry, music and songs, literature, drama, film or other creative works of Thai and foreign artists; relationship between science and art of communications; media design for imaginative works; analysis of images and narratives.” This semester’s theme: “Psychic Trauma; To Say the Unutterable”Communication Management, International Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

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“The Wave”, a Graphic Narrative by Students of the ‘Imaginative Communication’ Course (Nov. 2016)

“The Wave” is a graphic narrative (on the themes of psychological fright, phobia and school bullying) by Thai students Jinwara (Sugar) and Rattanakorn (Mim) for the IMGT COMM course (2800217), November 2016.

Description of the Imaginative Communication course: “Methods of conversing emotions, feelings, ideas, values, beliefs and meaning of life through the languages of the imaginative world in the form of poetry, music and songs, literature, drama, film or other creative works of Thai and foreign artists; relationship between science and art of communications; media design for imaginative works; analysis of images and narratives.” This semester’s theme: “Psychic Trauma; To Say the Unutterable”Communication Management, International Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

A clever use of potentialities and features of the comics form (layout, composition, design, text/image relationship, iconic solidarity, iconic iteration…) to serve the content.

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Reproduced with the authors’ permission. All rights remain to the authors.

“Daddy’s Girl: Visitors in the Night” (first version) by Debbie Drechsler, USA, 1992


Daddy’s Girl: Visitors in the Night (first version) by Debbie Drechsler (USA), in: Drawn & Quarterly (Anthology) Vol.1, #10, Drawn & Quarterly, CAN, 1992. The author’s first name “Debbie” was changed into “Lily” in the Daddy’s Girl collection (Fantagraphics Books, USA).  More on the topic in our interview with Debbie Drechsler.

“Visitors in the Night” – or “Daddy’s Girl” as the book was eventually called – is a masterpiece of horror. And it’s all the more horrifying because it is true, and because the actions depicted, the innocence-killing, soul-destroying actions, are happening right now, everyday, all around the world. (Richard Sala, in XeroXed #4, July 2004)

Contains scenes of a sexual nature. Viewer discretion advised.

Copyright ©1992 Debbie Drechsler

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“YVES – My Life as a Refugee”, a Graphic Narrative by Chalit & June (April 2016)


A graphic narrative (on the topic of ‘War Trauma’ and/or ‘War Refugees’) by Thai students Chalit Ratapana (Faculty of Communication Arts; adaptation/script) and June (Pareploy Maneerut; Faculty of Political Science; art) – based on the true story of Yves -a Congolese refugee who survived ethnic cleansing- (Sanctuary Australia Foundation) – as an assignment for my Imaginative Communication course (2800217), April 2016.

Update: The Sanctuary Australia Foundation, which offered a safe haven to Yves, has decided to publish the 4-page comics alongside Yves’ original testimony. I guess the Foundation saw -as I did- how Chalit and June were able to capture and to express -skillfully, with power and sensitivity- the plight of an individual and how, at the same time, they grasped and shared the tragic fate experienced by too many. Crossing the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia, Belgium and Thailand, crossing comics panel borders, so many boundaries were physically and symbolically overcome… I’m proud of you Chalit & June and I hope your graphic narrative will participate in “engaging audiences in conflicts and displacement crises that seem remote (…), especially when there appear to be no means of relating to the people in the stories” (to quote PositiveNegatives founder Benjamin Dix, see Comic as Art, Education and Advocacy). Thank you Chalit, June and Mark Hallam (from the Sanctuary Australia Foundation). And thank you, Yves, for your painful yet indispensable testimony. Best regards. Nicolas V.

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Screenshot of the Sanctuary Australia Foundation webpage with Chalit & June’s graphic narrative alongside Yves’s original testimony.

Description of the Imaginative Communication course: “Methods of conversing emotions, feelings, ideas, values, beliefs and meaning of life through the languages of the imaginative world in the form of poetry, music and songs, literature, drama, film or other creative works of Thai and foreign artists; relationship between science and art of communications; media design for imaginative works; analysis of images and narratives.” This year’s theme: “Crossing Borders”. Communication Management, International Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

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“Life Beyond Limitation”, a Graphic Narrative by Titirat (April 2016)


A graphic narrative (on the topic of ‘Crossing Borders’) by Thai student Titirat Sengsakdi – based on the true story of Caroline Casey – for her final individual project in IMGT COMM (2800217), April 2016.

Description of the Imaginative Communication course: “Methods of conversing emotions, feelings, ideas, values, beliefs and meaning of life through the languages of the imaginative world in the form of poetry, music and songs, literature, drama, film or other creative works of Thai and foreign artists; relationship between science and art of communications; media design for imaginative works; analysis of images and narratives.” This year’s theme: “Crossing Borders”. Communication Management, International Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

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Below: some preliminary layouts and final pages with interesting composition/aesthetic choices.

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Titirat J
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Reproduced with the author’s permission. All rights remain to the author.

“Horrors of War”, a Graphic Narrative by CommArts Students (March 2016)


A graphic narrative (on the topic of ‘War Trauma’ and/or ‘War Refugees’) by students Lukkaew, Mint, Prim, Korn & Ice for the IMGT COMM course (2800217).

Update: a short but precious FB comment (April 2, 2016) on Horrors of War by V for Vendetta co-creator & artist David Lloyd: “That’s great storytelling!”

Description of the Imaginative Communication course: “Methods of conversing emotions, feelings, ideas, values, beliefs and meaning of life through the languages of the imaginative world in the form of poetry, music and songs, literature, drama, film or other creative works of Thai and foreign artists; relationship between science and art of communications; media design for imaginative works; analysis of images and narratives.” This year’s theme: “Crossing Borders”Communication Management, International Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

For a first attempt on the medium, they make a clever use of potentialities and features of the comics form (composition, design, text/image balance, layout, iconic solidarity, colour, onomatopoeia…) to serve the content.

PS: Just noticed the left-facing “Sanskrit” swastika on the cover while making the scan.

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Reproduced with the authors’ permission. All rights remain to the authors.