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The Leeselin GuideKim Jung-yun
『The Leeselin Guide』Author : Kim Jung-yun
Publisher : Conanbooks
Publication date : February 1, 2021
Number of pages : 285
Format : 152x215mm
ISBN : 9791188605170
About the Truths We Can Face Through Simulation
The Leeselin Guide by Kim Jung-yun tells the story of how an artist’s simulation can reveal the truth. More precisely, it is about how the truth concealed in reality can be revealed only through simulations. The titular Lee Se-lin, wordplay on the well known Michelin Guide intended, is a food replica artist. In each episode she can be seen replicating different food per her clients’ request, narrating the memories from her past the models (plastic food replicas) remind her of. Some are familiar memories, like the landscape of inequality the model of cabbage that kimchi revokes: The annual kimchi making season where all the females of the family must gather to labor from grandma downwards. Some are quirky like the plastic model of ramen which reminds her of Mukbang Youtubers who painfully down uber-spicy ramen. In turn, this reminds her of random taste games with hidden spice bombs on Korean comedy variety shows, which bring to her mind the teenage memory of the school bully who took all her pocket money. You could say that in this novel, the plastic food replicas play the part of the madeleines and tea that help the protagonist of In Search of Lost Time travel back in time. So it’s already a parody of sorts. Reminiscing on things of the past through familiar taste and scent of food is a cultural cliché. In her work, bits and pieces of memories and emotions are brought back through plastic models that bear no taste or smell. In itself, it is an expression of the suspicion she bears of “real” food, “real” memories.
The plastic models she recreates are an imitation and simulation of foodstuff; however, the simulation also takes on the role of revealing the truth about our reality. Se-lin muses about her trade, stating she is “similar to a taxidermist, pausing a certain moment in time to keep it from decaying.” The food model is a simulation artificially manufactured to hide the fact that foods do decay. However, it is also an exposé. Without such simulation, the appetizing appearance of food is in fact only a setting, and can last but a moment – it will soon rot and mold. Nobody likes witnessing or smelling decaying food. A food replica, notwithstanding its inviting appearance, is only an inedible simulation on the other hand. It reveals, in reverse, the truth about decomposition – which is identical to the role that art and artwork play. Art, in its form as simulation of reality, allows us to experience the truths that we find difficult to confront. When Se-lin finds out that her second oldest brother, who’d been quite close to her, used a mold of her face to create a model of a dead female body who’d been beaten to death, she cuts all familial ties with him. Her mother, who had defended him telling her that it was only “fake,” no longer tries to reconcile them after she sees the model with her own eyes. There is a short description on the brutal state of the model; but the shock isn’t simply psychological. While the brutality seen in the image of an actual woman beaten to death may revoke anger for the individual attacker, the insensibility of the brother who recreated the model of a woman beaten to death, without her consent, exposes the systematic apathy of men in general which allows such brutality. Some uncomfortable truths are so painful that without the mediation of simulation, it is impossible to come face to face with them.
The Leeselin Guide,through the medium of Se-lin’s narration and profession, seems to reflect author Kim Jung-yun’s contemplation on how to reproduce the world through her own art of graphic novels. While in her previous work she discussed the truth that could only be revealed through the distance of the third person – not living by oneself or maturing by oneself but through raising oneself – she now tells the story of how some truths can only be told through simulated realities, and how some things that were believed to be truths are in fact simulations. Just as the table used for table manner classes at Se-lin’s etiquette school was made of plastic food replicas, just as her relatives made fun of Se-lin’s family’s trade as creating “fake” stuff, and finally mocked her mother’s “fake” bag to which all the members of Se-lin’s family responded by putting on a fake smile, a part of the ideologies and authenticities propping up our lives in reality are in fact, fabrications. Just as food replicas better represent the truth about food than actual food; just as things that appear significant in reality are revealed as insignificant imitations; graphic novels, as simulations that imitate the world around us, can expose, deconstruct and thus become a relatively safe medium for the brutal truths of this world. The superb wit this author wields works as a buffer when confronting the truth, but simulated wit also functions to expose, in reverse, the unhumorous violence of the real world. The author, who’d begun to demonstrate this truth beginning with her previous work, has now authored, through The Leeselin Guide, her own art theory. Perhaps this will function as a “Guide” to evaluate and trust the value of other simulations of reality.
By Wee Geun-woo