Hypercomics Pumphouse Gallery

Dave McKean's immersive comic book exhibition fills both the walls and floors in his Battersea Park venue

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Hypercomics takes the concept of the comic book right back to it’s very origins, the narratives scrawled on the walls of ancient caves, and in doing so presents a futuristic look at what the modern comic book could become once it is liberated from the confines of the page and the system of reading a linear format with a strict beginning, middle and end. Curator Paul Gravett presents the work of comic book artists Adam Dant, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Dave McKean and Warren Pleece in an unprecedentedly immersive way. Instead of being prescribed by the a typical comic book format, the narrative unfolds as the viewer chooses their own path around the gallery’s walls and floors, making them central to the outcome of the story and presenting them with various different perspectives on the characters with not just one reading or ending.

Warren Pleece has imagined the building reconverted into a huge apartment block, Montague Terrace, while Daniel Merlin Goodbrey transforms it into an archive of a glam-rock star turned world dictator. Dave McKean's 'The Rut' responds to the setting itself and the views from the Pump House itself to extrapolate an assault in the park and relate this to the former Deer Enclosure nearby. Adam Dant converts his top floor into urban magician Dr. London's late Tudor library of arcane books. According to Gravett, “Comics have always been a peculiar medium, in that it lets us see past, present and future all at once, from panel to panel, page to page, unlike the pictureless prose novel or a durational, image-by-image ephemeral movie, TV show or play. With comics, we can grasp the whole and explore and move about with it, looking back, looking ahead. Hypercomics allow comics to expand on this property and transform visual/verbal storytelling yet again for the 21st century.”

Pleece invites the public to press a door buzzer and spy on one of four bizarre tenants in his block of flat, while becoming a tenant themselves sitting on a sofa in a fifth flat. Goodbrey presents three grids of multi-nodal diaries about the work, play and dreams of a lone archivist. McKean unfolds an assault from the viewpoints of perpetrator, victim and witness, their stories branching off literally around the gallery, and then asks visitors to look through three masks at the story again, revisited in later life as the truth becomes distorted and ambiguous. Dant displays Dr. London's historic map of London overlaid with the outlines of a foetal body, the city's streets as arteries.

Hypercomics demonstrates that being interactive does not have to be synonymous with digital technology. This groundbreaking format is relatively lo-fi. Gravett says, “the comic appeals as tactile art object, with the feel of paper, the aroma of ink, the ease of flipping through pages, something to hold, is very special. Books and publications have always been wonderfully interactive. Far from replacing printed books, the Internet seems to be leading to more beautifully designed and produced books, and notably graphic novels.”

Hypercomics is on at Pumphouse Gallery until September 12th. Battersea Park, London, SW11 4NJ
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