Monday, January 9, 2017

mini-Kus! Of The Week #8: Moisseinen, Franz, Kallio, Sailamaa

mini-Kus! #40: 1944, by Hanneriina Moisseinen. Using dense but delicate pencils, Moisseinen elegantly uses a background setting of war to illustrate the ways in which nature is abused and exploited by man and the ways in which the feminine is ignored and cast aside. The story starts with bombers flying overhead and a woman doing her morning chores on the farm, and when she's told that she and her family have exactly two minutes to evacuate, she replies that she has to assist a cow that's about to give birth. After a successful birth, the men take the calf away from its mother and kill it, saying that it would starve and never survive the journey away from the farm. As they leave the now-bombed farm, there's a sort of thousand-yard stare shared by the woman and the cow. There's a sensitivity and restraint on the part of Moisseinen in this comic, as there's no need to exaggerate events that undoubtedly happened repeatedly and continue to happen now. In that sense, this comic serves as an object of mourning and honoring the dead, the innocent, those left behind and that which is destroyed in the wake of senseless violence.

mini-Kus! #41: EYEZ, by Aisha Franz. This is a bright, almost garishly-colored story about surveillance. Franz's line and use of color reminded me a lot of Gilbert Hernandez in this story, especially in the way Hernandez uses nudity as both an expression of personal freedom as well as a potentially dangerous way of exposing vulnerability. Franz's use of near-future technology is also a bit like Hernandez in the way that technology causes as many problems as it solves. In this particular story, which opens with a young man sunbathing nude on his roof, we see a camera drone fly up and violate his privacy. As he goes into his apartment/bunker (every aspect of the apartment is meant to mimic a panic room or a fortress meant to keep the outside world from intruding, instead of a warm and functional home), he angrily closes the blinds to all of his windows when he sees the drone hovering outside, only to reveal a gender-switch: she was wearing a fake male suit the entire time. Her privacy (spent desperately drinking water while being serviced by some kind of electronic pleasure couch) was disturbed by the prying, needy eyes of her cat. That sparked her to go to yet another secret chamber (layers within layers of camouflage and secrecy) and hook herself up to a sort of virtual reality/sensory deprivation device that turned her into what looked like pure energy. It's interesting that the progression of the comic goes from seeing the person sunbathing out in nature, then at least experiencing physical pleasure in her house, to finally becoming non-corporeal when she was sure no eyes were on her. To be viewed, in the context of this comic, is to be objectified and commodified, which is why the gender disguise was such a powerful image. Franz takes it a step further as the simple act of being needed in the material world becomes an invasion of privacy and an interruption of the intimacy of solitude, which is a horrifying side effect of that objectification. The end result of objectification, Franz seems to suggest, is people escaping their physical forms altogether in order to avoid it.

mini-Kus! #44: PF-E/FRAF, by Ville Kallio. This is an exploration and extrapolation of how global capitalism, fueled by right-wing responses to Islamic terrorism, fuels a permanent state of emergency and inextricably fuses the work force with the military. Sponsored by Saab and Volvo, unwitting soldiers are sent to pursue suspected terrorists. There's a grim, cartoony beauty in Kallio's drawings and a remarkably lively quality in his cartooning, as there's a sense of camaraderie even in these doomed, exploited soldiers that's mixed with social media interactions and viruses. Indeed, the endgame of the strip, where the resistance makes itself known in an unexpected way that gave the soldiers a chance to save themselves, reveals how the opposition to fascism often tries to use its tools against it in innovative ways. While the soldiers on the ground use conventional weaponry, Kallio suggests that the real weapons are information and a willingness to engage in personal transformation. This comic was clearly drawn on a computer, but Kallio shifts between making that artifice obvious (as though the soldiers, and by proxy, the reader, were in a terrifying video game) and disguising it in a manner that makes even the most garish of colors feel surprisingly naturalistic. Kallio redefines what is real in a world of nanotechnology, noting at the end that in a cancerous world dominated by our cancerous minds, we have to learn to accept that toxicity and adapt. This is an example of the mini-Kus! format and the short length of these comics being perfectly suited to an aesthetic approach and concept.

mini-Kus! #46: Everyone Is Hungry, by Anna Sailamaa. This beautiful comic, done in colored pencil, focuses on the simple, day-to-day existence of a girl and explores the passage of time in a moment-by-moment series of sensory impressions that focus on each of the five senses in different ways. The sheer delight of a girl looking out a window, touching the window, tasting and smelling her food and hearing the song of the sparrows gives the comic an intimate but visceral quality that reflects the power and immediacy of each moment. There's a broader metaphor expressed in the comic as well, as the day is not just a day, but an entire lifetime. As the sun sets and the flowers bloom and wilt, the fruit is eaten and rots, and the birds come and go, the reader sees the lights of the house extinguished at the end of the story after the sun sets. It's the end of a day consisting of moments, the whole of which seems impossibly greater than the sum of each moment, because moments are measured outside of time, in the full embrace of the power of aesthetic experience. The naturalistic approach here is softened by the use of colors, so the images on each page come alive as that particular moment is being experienced and savored.

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