Thursday, February 21, 2008

Laughing in a Foreign Language

This exhibition at the Haywood is one of many visits I have enjoyed to the south back in recent times leaving me interested in how humor is interpreted internationally. This question has been raised by the curator putting together artists from 20 different nations with a mix of installation, video, and photographs. As the world becomes more accessible and different cultures come in contact with each other humor may be one thing that links us while at the same confusing us.
This could be seen in Olaf Breuning’s work more than any other as the Swiss born artist makes purposely-bad travel documentaries interacting with different cultures using a very brash and American form of comedy. From this I moved to the adjoining corridor to find Finland’s Janne Lehtinen’s comedic photographs that showed him attempting flight off different objects in beautifully remote surroundings. With the last photograph showing the resulting crash landing he managed to portray a slapstick form of comedy in what where well constructed photographs in there own right. The first piece by the American Doug Fishbone was his Joke Master Jr. 2. A device mounted on the wall that at the push of a button would tell a loud and outrageously obscene joke. For instance "How do you get your wife to scream for an hour after sex? Wipe your dick on the curtains!" What I found most interesting about this piece was the uncomfortable situation it put the viewer in that I could only liken to most rides with a London black cab driver, therefore the situation itself becomes a comedic tale to reminisce over.
Bulgarian artist Nedko Solakov uses doodles in the stairwell of the gallery to intrigue the viewer into investigating what is at first thought to be mindless graffiti. These in fact turn out be well thought out jokes that left me hunting for more and therefore a sense of satisfaction, which became an interesting situation to find myself in at a gallery. The other piece by Doug Fishbone was a video on the ground floor of the exhibition and the format of the film stood out because it is something I have often seen on the Internet. It consisted of a series of images and a voice over that commented numerous issues including culture, politics and sex. The style could only be likened to a mix between a bad comedian a self help tape and a guy sitting next to you in the pub. Although this sounds like a disastrous combination the cultural analysis along with the comedic images gave it a fun and amusing quality.
I couldn’t say this exhibition had me laughing hysterically but as with other good art that uses humor it brightened up my day and gave me something to smile about. It also showed me an intriguing look into the humor of different cultures and also how they perceive us. Showing that despite the differences in humor and culture we are all intrinsically linked by a common desire for laughter.

By Martin

No comments: