Geography is a massive, interdisciplinary field spanning from large scale ecological studies (biogeography) to the interpretation and meaning of place and how people interact with it (cultural geography). At its core, it’s the exploration and analysis of how humans interact with each other and the living and the non-living networks on which they depend. So, yeah – BIG field.
My first comic I created for my PhD is an arts-based urban transect following my ride home, a walk with my dog, a swim at Bronte beach and a stand up paddle at Bobbin head. Materials for The Forage were taken from the places I depicted, and made into collages and inks by hand. Transects as a method of study is common across the spectrum of geographical practice: My first transect was counting and classifying indicator species of coral health. My favourite transect was cutting across the pubs on Bruny Island in Tasmania where the data took the form of reflective responses to having beers and talking to the patrons.
This transect shows observations of how I move and travel through ecological urban spaces. From transects we can interpret certain meanings of place. The places where I collected samples to collage and ink were places that had a substantial level of plant life. They were the places where I had a clear idea of how and where I move, because I regularly pass through them. One thing I only noticed once I was done was that I picked places that I regularly go in solitude. I selectively sampled areas of urban ecology where the human density is quite low. Given the importance of ecological and greenspace not only to Sydney, but in urban areas generally I do not mind creating a transect that is a celebration of what I regularly encounter. However it’s important to recognise and name selective samples when conducting transects, so there you are.
Geographers often take a normative approach to what and how they research. Within the urban landscapes of the industrial revolution, the non-human elements of the landscape were often valued as purely recreational. In the parts of this transect – of Centennial park – there is historical value of the Green Bans, a union movement that informs the Australian environmental justice movement to this day. So one of the aspects of this transect is the social struggles and class movements that allowed me to walk through and create such ecologies undisturbed, as well as my privilege to regularly access such spaces.
Where geography and narrative design coalesce lies at both form and substance. Geography literally means the graphic representation of the world. Mapping is a key part of geographic practice. As a series of words and images that can be interpreted to tell a story, mapping series have the capacity to shape how a place evolves. Comics build places within their setting as well as the structure of the panels and story itself. Spatial reconstruction of place in comics can illustrate the evolution of places over time, and the disruption of that evolution with events. Maps are a common in both geographic literature and comics as a narrative and political device. The geographic representation and understanding of the Anthropocene and comics’ ability to breakdown spatial and temporal barriers are worth investigating and experimenting further.