Curated Group Show – The Momentarily Absurd

14 July to 16 September 2012

Humour in Contemporary Art

A group exhibition that looks at wit in contemporary art featuring Doyle & Mallinson, Peter Kennard, Littlewhitehead, John Stezaker, Julie Cockburn, Harry Hill and others.

If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you. (Billy Wilder)

A joke cannot exist in isolation; it needs to be supported by ideas and thoughts. Similarly contemporary art relies upon background to engender emotions and thoughts that have not been previously experienced. By using humour artists reveal the hidden structures of our ordered world. The simplest of jokes strain the fabric of our language or social structure, rendering them momentarily absurd. There is a jolt as we struggle to understand the illogical and humour is created in this shift from reality to unreality. It is a way of avoiding direct responsibility, criticising social systems from within, enabling us to escape from our normal ordered world. Through humour we can to address the taboo opening up a wider discourse to important topics.

Jokes, parody, comedy, irony, satire, black, political and nonsense: humour in art now takes many forms, but it was not always that way. A hundred years ago wit had virtually no part in high art. Then the avant-garde arrived and stirred up the status quo. Marcel Duchamp put a urinal on a pedestal and called it ‘Fountain’. The gates to humour in art were opened and the Dadaists were followed by others like the Surrealists, Fluxus and the Pop Art movements. The post-modernists went farther and appropriated, subverted and deconstructed often using pastiche, parody, irony, ironic conflict and paradox.

Humour is now firmly established in the art world and it has long been accepted that witty work can indeed be very serious. Collected together in this exhibition are a broad selection of works that all employ ingenious strategies to convey their varied messages.


Private View: Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 July 2012 / 12 – 6pm

Momentarily Absurd Press