Nov 10, 2011

REVIEW | Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art | Dominic Molon | iCI | 2005

Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art by Dominic Molon

By participating in the art world in any way, one will eventually stumble across many different themes, motives, and styles.  One thing I have come to learn so far in my journey is that no matter what type of art being produced, all categories will contain some works who's main purpose is to make the viewer laugh.  I recently acquired this book titled Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art which takes a look at the different ways artists use humor to help create and convey their works to an ever-growing audience.  

 The 72 page paperback is interlaced with full page graphics of humorous contemporary art, and writings from Dominic Molon and co-author Micheal Rooks.  One of the first things that the authors want to get across is that comedy is not pretty.  Stated directly from the 8th page,
“Humor makes us responsible for our foolishness, greed, hatred, and other shortcomings by making the object of its mockery personal and familiar.  Humor exposes the individual and collective horror and regret that our personal failings cause, and laughter provides a cathartic release from them, though it can also be unforgiving.”
 There is a very antagonistic character in art made for the purpose of comical self-reflection.  It takes a lot for a person to really see those qualities in oneself, let alone appreciate them. The above picture is actually the cover of the book, and is a photograph by Martin Kersels titled Tossing a Friend (Melinda), 2006.  It is one in a series of three pictures of the Kersels himself throwing a petite female friend into the air.  These photos use comedy in the sense of size difference between the two to symbolize the gender imbalances in modern society.  They show an exaggerated sense of unequal power struggles faced by women.   

Erwin Wurm, Looking for a Bomb 3, Instructions on How to be Politically Incorrect, 2003.
   Erwin Wurm is one of Austria's most successful contemporary artists.  In his series Instructions on How to be Politically Incorrect, Wurm poses models in situations considered socially taboo and absurd in order to make us uncomfortable with the normal.  It is only then that we can laugh awkwardly at his pieces while imagining the same scenarios taking place in real life.  

Overall, the writing itself was somewhat difficult to read because of the overuse of lengthy, unnecessary words, which confused me more than it did inform me.  But taking a look at the book as a whole, I really enjoyed what I got out of it, and it indeed made me literally laugh out loud.  Whether taking comedic art lightly or digging down deep to really understand the meaning, it is important to laugh during the process.  I feel humor in art helps us appreciate the humor in the day to day activities in the real world, which can often be drab, monotonous, and even boring. 

Stephanie Brooks, Untitled, Politeness Strategy series, enamel etched on zinc, 2002.

-Taylor Brown


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