Finishing up our coverage of the Spring minicomics releases from Latvian publisher kuš! comics today at Broken Frontier we take a look at ‘World Ceramic Fair’ by Jooyoung Kim, #98 in the long-running mini kuš! series showcasing comics practitioners from across the globe.
‘World Ceramic Fair’ is a careful mix of the pleasingly witty and the pointedly uncomfortable. Set at an international ceramics event it’s disarmingly amusing, almost mischievous, in build-up. In the opening scenes we meet the exhibitors including those doomed to forever live on past successes, those who have sacrificed their artistic integrity, and those whose physicality has come to resemble their work (the “polka dot freaks” and the “geometry nerds”).
The deliberately affected naïve style the comic is illustrated in ensures a high degree of relatability with this world of committed ceramicists and their passions. There are perhaps obvious parallels to be drawn with the comics festival/convention circuits in terms of observational humour but this mini kuš! offering has a far more important remit in terms of social commentary.
‘World Ceramic Fair’ focuses on one Korean artist whose work has powerful statements to make on racism to her audience based on her own lived experiences. However, that message is irrelevant to two white visitors to her booth who value ornamentation over discourse and proceed to talk over her explanations of her work with a casual arrogance. Her frustration as they project their own meanings on to her work and patronise her with racial stereotypes (couched as supposed praise) is palpable, with the stripped back simplicity of the visuals only heightening the sense of awkwardness and blind offensiveness that permeates every panel.
‘World Ceramic Fair’ is not subtle in its delivery and nor should it be. There are references to the racism and hatred directed towards Asian communities over the last year and a half, and in that regard it also sits on the peripheries of that broader and growing sub-genre of pandemic comics. It’s perhaps a trite thing to say about work that it stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it but ‘World Ceramic Day’ certainly does. A fitting piece of socially relevant comics to finish up our mini kuš! coverage this week.
Jooyoung Kim (W/A) • kuš! comics, $7.00
Review by Andy Oliver