No Topic Too Taboo for Dark Humor Cartoonist Joan Cornellà
Death + preying on people’s vulnerabilities does not typically equal funny. Unless it’s Joan Cornellà's and it’s hilarious. Cornellà's work is as dark as black comedy can get. His work takes on subjects that are typically considered off-limits and too taboo and pokes fun at the disabled, infanticide, and suicide to name a few. The necessary variable in his humorous equation is the use of brightly colored scenes and smiling characters that look more like a retro how-to manual then anything possibly plausible. All sense of realness is removed and places it firmly in fiction. At a glance, the comics seem happy and joyful but then takes a turn for the worst when a man injects a child with heroin. His work, however, is not made purely shock value. The deeply satirical pieces also touch on real issues like narcissism in the digital age and police targeting minorities. While many feel offended by his work, much more find its humor. Even if at times we feel bad for laughing. It’s absurd. It’s dark. And it’s amazing.
Words: Keisha Reines
Artwork is an extension of the artist. In what ways does your work reflect who you are and your background?
I think there is a gap between my work and me and people usually are disappointed when they meet me because they expect me to be some kind of octogenarian pedophile with a gun hidden in the pants leg. I am a gray and boring person but I am working to please the people who follow my work and will gradually try to fulfill their expectations.
I remember reading a while back that when you first started creating your darker work you posted it on Facebook and it took off. Did you ever think it would get this big?
Your work both simultaneously mocks people’s obsession with their phones and has a large online following. How would you describe your relationship with social media?
I hate some aspects of social media and the internet. For instance, Facebook can censor you. It can decide what can you post. For a lot of people, it’s a way to express themselves every day. Someone controlling the way you can express yourself, it’s like clipping your wings. For me personally, I can post something related to sex but it cannot be too explicit. I can easily show dicks in my pictures. I can do that. But toilet humor is not my favorite humor, I’m more interested in things related to violence or death.
Your work is dark and pushes boundaries. Is there a topic you won’t touch or a line you absolutely won’t cross?
A friend once told me that my job is like a slap and that's the kind of definition of my job that I feel comfortable with. I like to think that it is like saying truths in a violent way as in the case of punk or humorists like Bill Hicks or George Carlin. I would like to think that I do not self-censure but we always limit ourselves consciously or unconsciously. My work has important visibility in the networks and especially on Facebook, so if I want to make a comic strip in which a penis comes out I will not be able to hang it there. Mark Zuckerberg does not like penises or nipples (female!), I personally do not like comics where explicit sex appears but I like playing with the taboo and the taboo often leads to laughter. I think it is an attempt on freedom to ban such things and that we are not yet very aware of the degree of submission in which we live. Someone is defecating in our heads.
Has there been anything that you have created that received backlash or that has attracted weird attention?
There are people who criticize my work because they think it is not politically correct and I should have a responsibility to my fans. But attributing a responsibility towards them is like saying that I should have a paternalistic attitude and that they do not have enough critical capacity. And that is the opposite of what I try with my work.
Have you created anything that even you were like “whoa too far?”
It's just humoring. I don’t work with real people and real things. If I made a joke about a real person, I’m not sure it would be the same. For me, it’s about fiction. As it’s a cartoon, it’s easier. You’re less limited.
Where do you find inspiration for your artwork?
I think the inspiration comes from some old American advertisements but also from cartoons, some Goya’s paintings or some Aphex twin album covers. I guess it’s a mix of different things
What are you currently working on? When’s your next show?
I’m working on the exhibition in Tokyo with is at the end of November.
Last question, do you think humans are inherently good or are we all screwed?
I want to think to a degree that goodness is not biological but cultural.