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Review: Here by Richard McGuire

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Richard McGuire’s Here draws readers into the life story of a simple room by invoking images of the past

‘As I walk around the city, I’m time-travelling, flashing forward, planning what it is I have to do,’ Richard McGuire says about a recent cover he drew for New Yorker magazine. ‘Then I have a sudden flashback to a remembered conversation, but I notice a plaque on a building commemorating a famous person who once lived there, and for a second I’m imagining them opening the door.’

This is the territory of McGuire’s new book, Here, which plays with time – and space – in both a historic and personal way. But it is also the territory of our everyday lives and how we move within and interact with the built and natural environment. McGuire’s Here tells the story of a corner of a room and the events that have occurred in that space over the course of hundreds and thousands of years. If that sounds familiar, it is because we previously published an article on this book’s predecessor, a 35-panel comic dating from 1989 (AJ 24.05.12).

Here, by Richard McGuire

By keeping the reader’s eye trained on the corner of a room, but altering the time at which that corner is shown, both versions of Here show a multitude of events rhyming across the years. Some of these moments develop into narratives piled high with meaning, some fade to nothing, others are straightforward non sequiturs. The original six-page strip – published in the comics anthology Raw, co edited by Maus author Art Spiegelman – is considered to be a masterwork and a radical reinvention of form; a comicbook Barcelona Pavilion or Villa Savoye. It uses a standard device – a dateline caption – to allow the artist to explore the past and future of a simple block of space.

Here, by Richard McGuire

Sometimes the view is populated with multiple frames of action, adding, fractal-like, to McGuire’s curious space-time diagram. Here grew out of a homework exercise. McGuire, a long-time cartoonist and musician – he wrote the bassline sampled on Melle Mel’s 1983 track White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It) – attended lectures on the history of comics by Spiegelman at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Inspired by a subsequent cartooning class assignment – and by moving into an old Manhattan apartment, where he still lives – he conceived an idea for a strip.

Most importantly, he expanded the picture area so that the living room would fill each spread of the book, with the central fold of each spread forming the corner of the room, placing readers inside the frame of action. ‘If Here is about one thing,’ says McGuire, who projects his childhood room into a future seemingly disrupted by ecological disaster, ‘it’s that nothing lasts, whatever it is or however permanent it seems.’

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