SAFARI FESTIVAL FORTNIGHT!
For the last ten years micropublisher kuš! has been bringing us a truly international body of work via its signature digest anthology comic, its mini kuš! minicomics and its new mono series. The Latvian outfit also got to celebrate this anniversary of a decade of indie and alt excellence with an Eisner nomination.
Given all those achievements, and our own immense respect for the kuš! team here at BF, it was a pleasure indeed for me to be able to interview co-publisher Sanita Muižniece as part of the Broken Frontier panel on ‘Comics and the Micropublishing Revolution’ at this year’s ELCAF in June.
Over the years kuš! have never shied away from presenting experimental uses of the medium or obscurer storytelling techniques that make the reader work a little harder in their interactions with the page (in that regard they’re very much like fellow Safari Festival exhibitors 2dcloud). š! #29 is no exception with a wonderfully diverse number of stylistic approaches to the subject matter.
Anna Vaivare’s opener ‘I Am Glad You Came’ is one of the standout entries of the issue and an example of a strip that understands those neat storytelling tricks that are only possible in comics. The top panels of each page show what’s happening at a party from the perspective of guests milling around a table for food and drink, with the bottom panels showing a very different experience of events from the viewpoint of the household cat under the table. Two narratives that are at once completely separate and inextricably linked.
It will come as no surprise for many to hear that contemporary festivities, often with an alcohol-induced element, are a frequent theme. Ingrīda Pičukāne’s ‘Extasis Alcoholicus’ provides a strangely rustic “morning after the night before”with a visual style that revels in its own incongruity given its subject matter, while Elīna Brasliņa’s ‘The Dishes’ (below left) takes alcoholic delirium one step further into the weird in a tale of a water spirit trapped in a sink of dirty dishes at a house party. Contrasting use of colour in Brasliņa’s pages is particularly effective in delineating the banal and the everyday and their mystical counterparts.
For those looking for a comedic interpretation of the subject matter then Ernests and Andrejs Kļaviņš’ ‘All Hail Flipper’ is a darkly witty piece of vibrantly cartooned humour that centres on the Lovecraftian god Cthulhu’s resentment of renowned dolphin entrepreneur Flipper the dolphin when he’s feted by the dignitaries of his undersea kingdom. Cutting analysis of the superficiality of the art and business worlds is delivered with a cynically amusing twist and perfect comic timing.
One offering that uses visual splendour to bring you into a brief moment rather than weave an elaborate tale is Rasa Pavilona’s ‘Back Alley Birthday’ (above right) which captures the sensation of bowling a strike and turns it into a celebratory phantasmagoria – minor achievement becoming energised and elevated triumph.
Laura Ķeniņš – whose Steam Clean from Retrofit Comics we reviewed here earlier this week – uses the aftermath of a party fused with her familiar sense of magic realism in a piece of biting social commentary on casual sexism.
The rituals of otherworldly or ancient civilisations also make repeated appearances. Reinis Pētersons’ deliberately disproportionate animated art (right) gives us a long-dead society that in turns is humorous, bustling and liable to fill us with awe. In ‘Segregation’ (below left), meanwhile, Oskars Pavlovskis creates an elaborate ceremony in tightly paced panel-to-panel storytelling that seems to signal the advent of a new belief system.
Other highlights in a strong issue include an absolutely delightful tale of preparing for some very different guests in Rūta Briede’s ‘They Came’; Maija Kurševa’s ‘Celebration’ which asks the reader to go one step further in interacting with its representational collage; and Anete Melece’s ‘Make the World a Better Place’ (below right) which is playful in its considerations of identity and the idea of the costume party.
As kuš!’s co-publisher David Schilter explained in our 2015 interview here at BF Latvia has never had a tradition of comics and it remains a young art form there. It’s entirely fitting then that issue #29 of their much respected anthology should be given over almost entirely to Latvian creators. Perhaps it’s also the reason why this collection feels so very eclectic and so packed with artists approaching the page as a blank canvas with no preconceptions as to what comics should be.
Happy birthday then kuš! comics! Here’s to the next decade of bringing practitioners from every continent to new international audiences!
kuš! will be exhibiting at Safari Festival on August 12th.
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