If you want to know what is going on in the world at a certain time, you can learn a lot from looking at the pervading sense of humor. And if you want to explore the nuances of that sense of humour, you should look at the artists. Humour is very hard to describe, there isn’t even a vocabulary for the various shades of humour that humans can perceive and certainly not much research or writing on the subject especially in the area of art. Thus the paralinguistic (or sub-linguistic) nature of art is the perfect way to gain an understanding of what people find funny. Art often seeks to legitimize itself through theory and is in general a bit self conscious about being “serious”; galleries especially selling things that have no intrinsic value must inflate the importance and difficulty of the artworks, often overlooking what is a crucial component of both blue chip and emerging art alike, its humour.
Artists are about turning things on their heads, experimenting and dismantling concepts, mining culture and critiquing society, so as a tool to do all these things, humour is crucial. Ribald, dry, ironic, slapstick or dirty, grotesque or odd or funny, the artworks are often hard to describe but the meaning is felt and experienced.
Young artists now are using different strategies to integrate humour into their works. Using text, visual absurdities, video, unexpected objects, cartooning and the abject, to name a few, the artists in this show demonstrate a range of senses of humour that are best left unarticulated by me. The rupture created by their jokes allows a space for new understanding to be created in the viewer, as we explore the ways artists break the silence of the big white art gallery by making their audiences roar.
This exhibition is a condensed version of a larger curatorial project by Kathy that will take shape at The Hole in NYC next year. After Cory Arcangel, Jim Drain and Miranda July all told her in the span of a few months that they did stand up in comedy clubs, Grayson decided to turn her gallery into a comedy club, mounting a group show looking at artistic sense of humour, and making these artists get up on stage and actually tell a joke. Celebrated comedians will be featured as well throughout the exhibition, and Grayson herself will do her best to make the audience laugh with her archive of art jokes at the opening.
The zine for this exhibition and the book for its expanded version in NYC will just be a joke book, where each artist has one page to tell their best joke.