Watchmen by Brightness (2015)

Inspired by a comment by Nicholas Nova, during his talk at Resonate 2015, about finding new ways to rearrange batches of images other than by date or geography, which got me thinking about narrative in comics and whether new narratives could emerge by shuffling the panels.

I chose Watchmen, not just because it’s a classic or because I like it, but because of the rigid 9 panel grid which meant all the panels were at the same ratio. The pages were sliced up into 2,429 panels and the resulting images sorted by brightness using ImagePlot.

The resulting order was then rendered as a large webpage using javascript to fit the panels together in a neat grid and posted to Tumblr where it got a fairly good reception.

I have started recomposing the comic in the 9 panel grid and posting a page to the Watchmen by Brightness Tumblr every day. The last page will appear on March 22, 2016 at which point a PDF will be released and a printed copy made.

The work highlights how narrative is ultimately constructed by the reader by making associations between juxtaposed images or phrases. It also calls back to cut-up technique and other surrealist approaches.

Finally, it nicely references the nature of Watchmen itself, where a main character, Dr Manhattan, is able to perceive all moments in time simultaneously and therefore rearrange reality to his choosing. For more about the structure of Watchmen, see Kieron Gillen’s entertaining talk.

Watchmen is obviously copyright Warner Brothers and this work blatantly infringes that copyright. If Warner’s lawyers see it it will probably vanish. Such is life.