Review: A Projection by Seekan Hui

I’m trying to get a little more reading done as we get deeper into the fall convention season. This summer has been tough for me personally, but I’m excited to move into the fall. SPX is just a week away, and a lot of major releases are coming out at that show. (Sadly my backlog is already bad enough, and I am sure to get flattened by the fall season). So while we wait with bated breath for those SPX releases, I thought it might be good to look at some books published this spring and summer. One of those books is Seekan Hui’s A Projection, which was sent over to me by Avery Hill earlier this year. Hui’s a relatively new creator to me, but she’s part of an UK-based artists’ collaborative called FROGLUMP which is creating some fascinating work.Hui also recently had a book in a Shortbox collection.

A Projection is a formally inventive full color zine about a young woman named Cecilia who works as a live-in nanny and photographer for two children whose mother is obsessed with capturing their every waking moment on film. As Cecilia continues to work for the family, she starts to find out more about their circumstances, including the death of an older daughter. The book takes a strange turn and what at first seems quirky becomes dark and disturbing.

Hui’s color palette is striking, like a bright autumn day by a clear lake. A Projection’s page construction at first appears panelless, but Hui uses object lines and other pathing to direct the flow of the reader’s eye. This technique works better on some pages than others, and there were a few pages that required rereading to fully understand. Whether this is the fault of the reader or the author is up for debate, since Hui’s guiding hand seems remarkably clear on any subsequent rereads.

Hui’s writing is subtle and complex. Meaning unfurls the deeper you get into A Projection, and it’s a comic that benefits multiple readings. Small word choices which initially seem inconsequential are anything but, and in this way A Projection feels painstakingly scripted. The darkness of the script is buoyed by Hui’s exuberant style; the main character has two heads stacked on one another, the children she watches are ladybugs, and these visual idiosyncrasies continue throughout the book.

What seems clear is Hui’s focus on the ways in which our memories can be changed by events in the present. An older sister, whose death is tiptoed around in the book but never addressed head-on, represents the family’s past. The mother is unable to move on, and it affects the way she treats her children, her husband, and Cecilia. Also salient is the way that grieving can, over time, become abnormal.  A Projection is a solar system that orbits around toxic grief. In the family of A Projection, the mother’s grief is so overwhelming that it shapes even the way that caretaking is defined. Cecilia is a photographer (a memory catcher, a cataloguer, a biographer) before she is a nanny. She has quotas of memories to make each day. The mother and father are so distant that they can’t do anything with their children. Meanwhile the children in the book are flighty (sometimes literally), sometimes angry and lashing out, sometimes fearful or sad. There’s also resolution found at the end of the book, something that seems almost impossible.

A Projection is a smart work, bristling with ideas about memory, grief, and interpersonal relationships. Hui’s eye for color and page composition is strong. The combination of these two undeniable facts makes A Projection a sticky book; you’ll be thinking about it long after you’ve finished it.

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