Only connect…

This short comic by Sophia Foster-Dimino is about relationships. ‘Relationships’ is such a debased and overused word that it has ceased to mean anything at all, except perhaps ‘what couples do other than sex’, so I need to clarify that. Did You See Me? is about network connections between subjects, and the media in which those connections are made. And yes, dear journal, you are correct in surmising that I was joking when I said ‘clarify’. It’s about people making connections, and it challenges the reader to think about how those connections are made. Better?

Near the beginning of the book the focal character faces his dreaming self across an empty page; and at the end he faces his romantic foil across the white expanse of a double spread, at a point of mutual recognition. Between those pages Foster-Dimino presents us with a variety of materials with which those empty spaces might be filled, implying for me a degree of dissent from Marshall McLuhan’s observation that ‘the medium is the message’. Instead we are invited to imagine how two particular individuals, neither of whom are given much biographical scaffolding, write themselves into the media by which they communicate, their utterances as ontological as they are representational.

The two media in which Foster-Dimino inscribes their exchanges, both of which could stand in for a variety of others, are Twitter and dreams. In the expressionistically and confusingly rendered dreamspace their interactions are natural, uninhibited and follow a clear logic, whose freely associative flow feels as appropriate to their subjective experience as it is objectively disorientating. On Twitter they are hedged about by difficulties and social constraints, and the subjective is as difficult as the objective is solidly reliable. In both media identity is occluded and contingent.

This is a short, simple story. It is a fantasy, although it is easy to read its fantastical elements as allegorical, if you prefer. It takes the surfaces and appearances we encounter in social media as an opportunity to explore how we relate there, but also elsewhere, and offers the important insight that we are never talking to ‘the person themselves’, but to the image we have formed of them. It is also a touching and optimistic love story. Foster-Dimino’s clean and schematic cartooning, which she adapts with equal precision to the surrealistic requirements of the dream sequences and prosaic needs of the waking world, is both decorative and discursive, full of incidental observations that never draw attention to themselves, but which make her narrative world both complete, and beautiful.

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