What the hell are you doing here?
I remember The Guardian furiously tinkling their tambourines when Richard McGuire’s Graphic novel ‘Here‘ was published so I made a mental note to get hold of a copy at some point. That point arrived recently on the occasion of my husband’s birthday. It’s a stunning book to look at. The cover’s simple illustration of a window in neutral hues is strikingly beautiful, as is the rest of the book, and it lends itself to a flick through or a browse as well as being followed in linear fashion. It certainly justifies a prime position on the coffee table, but it is so much more than that.
The book is an account of a room in a house. Every page illustrates the same view of a single space over time, jumping through decades and centuries both forwards and back. Period details are captured as are stages and generations of people’s lives. There is a remarkable stillness as you flick from one domestic moment to another. The single space throughout different random moments across millennia, is a quiet, private experience rather than an energetic speeding through time. It’s no coincidence that Vermeer reproductions frequently appear at periods on the wall of the room as ‘Here‘ captures something of the domestic stillness of his paintings.
The feeling that has haunted me since reading ‘Here‘ is that we do not own the spaces we are presently in. They are on loan. Home-owners or not, whatever our situations, we are all temporary residents. We don’t rule the world, and we certainly don’t own it. Our significance over the course of time is grossly over-estimated by us, but our impact on the world’s resources is devastatingly short-sighted.
I love the illustrations and subdued palette of ‘Here‘. The concept is unique and extraordinarily powerful as is its execution. Also, what this graphic novel does is something that a written novel couldn’t. The visual repetition of a space, like random frames from a film of the whole history of time, is only occasionally peopled and has minimal dialogue. What is presented is the transience of human life, our insignificance, while time and space roll on regardless. Leafing through the pages of ‘Here’ it dawned on me fully, we really just don’t matter.