I’m all for formalist experimentation — even for its own sake — but Kimball Anderson’s self-published mini Unfolding (which I think was released in the latter part of last year, but I could be wrong about that — in any case, that’s when I got it) is formalist experimentation with an added layer of purpose beyond “just” or “only” that tacked on : utilizing typed text and collage, it manages, in the space of just 12 pages, to interrogate the very nature of information-gathering and information-sharing on levels both practical and conceptual.
Consider : there is something about someone or something (or both) that’s written (whoops, typed, sorry) on a small piece of folded paper. As you slowly open it, you find out more, each outward unfolding offering up a fragment of a larger puzzle that is actually, all told, no puzzle at all. It only appears to be such due to the fragmented nature of the, to borrow a lame term, “reveal.” But what if said “reveal” was — errrmmm — revealed by other means?
Buckle up, because we’ve got to take things a couple steps further here, okay? Suppose the process I just laid out is actually reversed, and the slip of paper is being folded up, but is being read section by section as it’s folded, so that you’re well and truly learning more while seeing less — textually speaking, that is. On the other side of the paper, there’s an image, nominally related in some subtle way to what’s wri — typed! Caught myself that time! —and now suppose this process is being repeated four times over, with four different pieces of paper. Following me so far? Good, since we’re not quite done yet.
Now, further suppose that each of these paper scraps contains a discrete piece of information that tells a small “story” unto itself — but that all four descriptive passages are actually interconnected even though they’re separate. Starting to get the picture? I dearly hope so, because “getting the picture” is precisely what this innovative-yet-simple project is all about.
I’m also fully cognizant of the fact that I’m probably-to-definitely making the whole thing sound more convoluted than it really is, but perhaps the sample pages included with this review explain it all far better than my uncharacteristically (but then I would say that) linguistic fumbling is managing to accomplish. Language is a big part of what Anderson is experimenting with here (and by “a big part,” I mean half) — using it in fragmented form to draw attention to its shortcomings as a means of communication — but so are pictures, and while this may not be a traditional “comic” per se, its premise (by default and by design in fairly equal measure) teases out what comics do so well, which is to say : they convey information by means both verbal and visual. And by deconstructing the ability to do both in plain sight, this ‘zine gives readers a newfound appreciation for the inherent strengths and possibilities of illustrated sequential storytelling.
Are Anderson’s goals here ultimately — shudder! — ironic, then? Nah, I really don’t think so, I just think that there’s some “natural,” if you will, irony woven into the framework of the project’s metaphorical DNA. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and all that. In any case, this is a work that got me to thinking — about what it was, about what it was doing, and about how it was doing it. That’s more food for thought than you normally get out of 120 pages, let alone 12. Saying “highest possible recommendation” is a pretty formal note to end things on, admittedly, but hey, this is formalist stuff, so — if the shoe fits, right?
Unfolding is available for $5.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/unfolding.html
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