How Messing with Mr. In-Between May Make Gutter Talk More Interesting

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Speculating on the positive nature of negative space, an erudite person said,

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There is nothing there there,

which is where there is.

The Positive Nature of Negative Space

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http://www.mcescher.com/Gallery/recogn-bmp/LW446F.jpg

MC Escher – Metamorphossis – 1967 — 1968

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Figure/ground, also known as positive and negative space, is at work in all facets of graphic design. In the design of logotypes and symbols, the distillation of complex meaning into simplified but significant form thrives on the taut reciprocity of figure and ground. In posters, layouts and screen design, what is left out frames and balances what is built in. Similarlly, in time-based media, including multipage books, the insertion and distribution of space across time effects perception.

From Graphic Design: The new Basics by Ellen Lupton and Phillips Jennifer Cole

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Nothing is Everything

But Everything is NOT nothing.

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Thirty spokes meet in the hub.

But the empty space between them

Is the essence of the wheel.

Pots are formed from clay

But the empty space within it

Is the essence of the pot.

Walls with windows and doors

Form the house.

But the empty space within it

Is the essence of the home.

Lao Tze

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It was Johnny Mercer who sang these lyrics in the 1940’s:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

And latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

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The lyrics ring true when they refer to personal relationships and attitudes towards life, however take a moment and extend the meaning to photography and other means of visual storytelling.

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Messing with Mr. In-Between

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In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud clearly observes the importance of the space between frames. The space between frames is called the gutter. It is highly charged seemingly negative space. However the space contains energy. The creator of a story in  sequential art forms such as comics and graphic novels know that the gutter may suggest time among other things. For example, frame one may show a cave family warming in front of a fire eating some roasted critter. Frame two may depict a present day family sitting down for a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. The gutter allows a transition of thousands of years and the mind’s eye completes a story through participation with the viewer. Each viewer/reader will fill that space in with their own experience giving power to Mr. In-Between. No two readers will describe that space in exactly the same way.

McCloud says, “…comics asks the mind to work as a sort of in-betweener — filing in the gaps between panels…”

According to McCloud, when the reader/viewer fills in the gutters, he or she creates closure.

In what ways may a still photographer create closure? He or she may create a graphic novel or short story using frames. Or photographers may apply what isn’t there to create participation. Which concept will get more participation from viewers — the photograph that includes everything that you might possibly know including what happened or what is about to happen or the picture leading up to the climax of the story where the viewer is invited to complete it in their mind’s eye? The amazing collaboration between Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison consistently include what is not there.

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Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison

Lucid Dream

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Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison

From their Website

Counterpoint Series – New Work

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Thinking about how to wrap up this topic, I realized that there is no way to wrap it up.

There isn’t any there there, is there?

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The Man Who Wasn’t There

William Hughes Mearns 1899

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I saw a man upon the stair But when I looked he was not there He wasn’t there again today Oh, how I wish he’d go away.

This verse, titled “Antigonish” was written by William Hughes Mearns in 1899.

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2 Comments on How Messing with Mr. In-Between May Make Gutter Talk More Interesting

  1. Great post, Ian. In this information age, with its supermassive clouds of data, visuals, and other forms of information that rain down on us every single day, the need for negative space – and for space of all kinds – is essential. This is a basic human need, I feel.

    It bears mentioning the obvious fact that much of the information that touches us exists to create specific influences. Even if the desired influence is well-intentioned (e.g., “Join my cause to help save the earth”), there’s still an attempt to influence at work. And many desired influences are less altruistic than this. I observe within myself that the sum total of all these subtle influences creates a sense of internal pressure… and that this important issue of space that you’ve raised relates intimately to what brings relief. Perhaps even shelter from the information storms of that characterize modern life.

    Your piece causes me to reflect on how I create and use space in the important areas of my life: creatively, spiritually, practically. I feel that that this issue will continue to gain importance as mental, creative, physical, and negative space becomes more of a premium over time.

  2. Another great post!

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