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An Unsolicited Proposal Program winning exhibition.

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Submitted Proposal:

Artist Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen tells the sto ry of an unexplained laughter epidemic that began in the town of Kashasha i n Tanganyika in central Africa in January 1962\, spanning six months\, and contaminating and incapacitating hundreds. The epidemic began with in a cla ssroom\, possibly the result of a joke\, and quickly spiraled out of contro l – a true social contagion. Its darker underbelly\, however\, lies in the reality that 1962 marked Tanganyika's independence and citizens were facing increased pressure. It was\, in fact\, an outbreak of mass hysteria – a Ma ss Psychogenic Illness.

In his 1953 lecture "Un-knowing: Laugh ter and Tears\," Georges Bataille points to laughter as beyond the extreme limit of knowledge\, the confusion\, intoxication and uncertainty of laught er\, and its close relation to trauma:

"There is something int oxicating in tears\, as in laughter. One would\, I think\, have no difficul ty in showing that tears can be considered as related to laughter\, to the invasion of the unknown\, to the elimination of a part of this world which we consider as the world known in all the parts generally seen as a whole." 1

Because it is unknowable and ambiguous\, there is power in l aughter. The motivation for this exhibition is to pursue research into laug hter as a destabilizing force\, emancipated from the joke and entering the realm of power relationships\, reactions to political landscapes and human emotion. 2012 is the fiftieth anniversary of the 1962 epidemic\, which bega n from the giggling of three schoolgirls but which had much deeper roots. T his epidemic\, which highlights the cyclical and paradoxical nature of laug hter\, was at its core an involuntary response to a radically changed reali ty\, not unlike the one we are currently experiencing. Unexpected modes of expression come spilling in out in times of distress or exhaustion.
< br /> Nguyen's installation For An Epidemic Resistance (2009) anchors the e xhibition. The artist takes the 1962 event as a conceptual point of departu re. Organized as a grid of hanging speakers\, the installation provides a s patial approximation of the classroom in which the epidemic broke out: laug hter spreads between speakers as one walks through the installation. Sam Ta ylor-Wood's eight-minute video Hysteria (1997) provides a close reading of emotional confusion. The video frames a woman's face\, and we cannot discer n whether she is laughing or crying. Shahryar Nashat's Modern Body Comedy ( 2006) is an ambiguous power game. In this seductive and unsettling film\, t wo men enact an enigmatic narrative upon on stage set. There is a frighteni ng\, exhilarating discord between communication and intent on the part of t he actors\, such that one loses a sense of reality as the story escalates. The film culminates in a troubling denouement. Althea Thauberger's Anatomie Artistique (2011) speaks to past and present readings of women's bodies. H er photograph transposes a woman in a pose associated with hysteria in nine teenth-century medicine\, with a similarly posed yogi. It is a beautiful\, sad and clever formal exploration of the interpretation and confusion of fo rm.

1. Georges Bataille\, "Un-knowing: Laughter and Tears\," r eprinted in October 36\, Spring 1986\, 98.

DTEND:20130727 DTSTAMP:20141128T230437 DTSTART:20130523 GEO:40.719022;-74.004432 LOCATION:Apexart\,291 Church Street \nNew York\, NY 10013 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY: laughter \, Christian Boltanski\, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen\, Yoshua Okón\, Stuart Ringholt\, Althea Thauberger UID:274407 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20130522T200000 DTSTAMP:20141128T230437 DTSTART:20130522T180000 GEO:40.719022;-74.004432 LOCATION:Apexart\,291 Church Street \nNew York\, NY 10013 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY: laughter \, Christian Boltanski\, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen\, Yoshua Okón\, Stuart Ringholt\, Althea Thauberger UID:274408 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR