It’s the winter solstice – shortest day of the year, longest night. From here on out we see increasingly longer days as the light returns. My family has always observed the solstice with particular significance – and perhaps it offers a reminder of hope and brighter days to come in dark times. To that end, I wanted to share some work by students made in response to my recent comic WE. (I shared some other responses to WE last post including Professor Andrea Lunsford’s and Jay Nickerson’s use of it as a mentor text for students.) Teacher Melissa Surber sent me the following about the genesis of the work her seniors created at Troy Buchanan High School in Missouri:

We just finished reading “1984” by George Orwell. I asked them to consider Orwell’s warning. Then I shared with them your work “WE”, and we discussed how you conveyed your message, your use of personal story, your challenge to readers. Then I asked them to depict Orwell’s warning in a way that was inspired by your work. I love them and am impressed with their depth and thoughtfulness. I attribute that to the inspiration your piece provided them. So thank you!

I thought it worth sharing them as she sent them. I’m impressed with the students’ inventiveness, initiative, and the strength that I felt each one of these displayed. It’s encouraging and inspiring and, well, hopeful… I look forward to seeing what they may do next.

I wrapped a full schedule of talks around Unflattening with a visit to Penn earlier in December. Invigorating discussion around the work and what scholarship might be going forward. More conversations along these lines to come in the year ahead. Also, next spring will mark the launch of comics classes where I teach at SFSU in advance of the forthcoming comics studies minor there. Expect I’ll have much to share on that in the coming months.

Unflattening is now out in Korean (as well as French with more translations in the works), and it turns out that Gallery SU in Seoul hosted an exhibition this fall that borrowed its title from Unflattening and features 3 Chinese emerging artists. From the exhibition statement:

Exhibit title, “Unflattening” was quoted from title of the first comic book published by Harvard University, which is the first philosophy-comics research passed thesis examination at Columbia. Unflattening is a word created by the author, Nick Sousanis, indicates thoughts, experiences, all the tools, concepts and system invented by human to form the life are rather obstructing the infinite potential as being “mechanism that makes one-dimensional thoughts and behaviour”. If Flatness is a narrow and stiff one-dimensional viewpoint, Unflattening is a concept describing new approach and three-dimensional perspective. This can be explained as the perspective, looking at the same world with different viewpoint, the experiences in China; rapidly developed after Chinese economic reform in 1978, possessed system of aware- ness, seeking something new through various perspectives, and the features of young Chinese artists who repeat breakaway, denial, overturn and seeking. Furthermore, the exhibition has been prepared as to understand China with new perspective beyond standing and unilinear views.

I thought it was pretty cool and ended up having a great exchange with the gallery owner and curator Su H. Kim about the show. Pleased to see this semi-made-up word enter the lexicon in unexpected places (as in some of these earlier examples as well). You can learn more about this exhibition here.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday, and brighter days to come in the new year. – Nick