Comics-based exhibition creatively tweaks the form's traditional presentation

The concepts behind “DISRUPTING THE NARRATIVE,” the exhibition curated by CCAD comics professors Laurenn McCubbin and Emi Gennis and on display through late June at Ohio State University's Urban Arts Space, are firmly rooted in comics. But if you're expecting to see traditional panels, characters and linear stories, you're going to be … disrupted.

Yep, the exhibition is totally meta.

“DISRUPTING THE NARRATIVE” features the work of six artists, including the co-curators, whose works directly or tangentially involve comics. The work was specifically sought out for its demonstrations of creativity in tweaking the traditional linear narrative presentation of comics.

“We wanted to use the gallery setting to approach storytelling from a cartoonist's perspective, to alter the format of comics and to address the idea of how you tell a narrative,” McCubbin said.

The methods by which the artists made their disruptions are varied, from format to medium. Sarah Rose Sharp embeds narrative in textile works based on traditional African flags. CCAD student Zoe Fox also employed textiles, creating an embroidered comic. Shing Yin Khor's work is participatory, allowing viewers to move their own narratives via game play and fortune-telling cards. Carl Antonowicz has repurposed an original comic by creating an attendant performance piece, and again repurposed that work into an exhibition that features video and remnants of the original performance.

“Because we're both comics professors, we're already engaged in actively seeking to show people the potential of comics, and broaden the perception of comics,” Gennis said. “We're aware of innovative stuff that's going on, and this is an opportunity to show off the diversity of narrative forms.”

Gennis' work will employ nontraditional materials in a work inspired by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev and structurally based on his periodic table of elements. McCubbin combines typical comics visuals with projection to “push the narrative over” of a Las Vegas experience in light of the mass shooting there last year.

“The focus for us in putting together this show has been looking at pieces in which there is some relation between form and content,” Gennis said. “Taking that narrative and having the form reflect the content creates a really unique reading experience where the reader is interacting with your piece in a very personal, intimate way — in a way that you wouldn't necessarily with a traditional book.”

In the end, Gennis said, “the show itself is disrupting the narrative about comics.”