On the 21 April we hosted the lectures and a following discussion and a joint workshop by British artist and researcher Lee Campbell and Giselinde Kuipers, editor-in-chief of the journal Humor: international journal of humor research.  The theme of the day concerned humour and its boundaries, looking at slapstick and its social, personal and political implications within visual art practices.

Lee Campbell’s lecture merged theoretical considerations with the practical application of his current PhD research interests, exploring ideas concerning ‘slapstick’, a form of body comedy often regarded as low-brow, naff, ‘coarse farce’; a crass unsophisticated alternative to more ‘intelligent’ forms of humour. He argued that by rescuing slapstick from the skip and critically re-evaluating it’s social, personal and political implications in the context of contemporary art practice, it may offer a method to disrupt social norms as a result of a fracturing caused by an engineered incongruity between two or more elements. 

Giselinde Kuipers’ lecture focused on humour and its social boundaries: "What is humor? Over the centuries, many philosophers, artists and laypersons have asked this question – and the answers to this question often turned out to be rather disappointing: either too obvious, or too obscure. In this lecture, I ask not what humor is, but rather what it does: how does humor function in social life? What effects do humor and laughter have on our social relationships and our perception of reality? In answering this question, I focus on the ambiguous relationship between humor and social boundaries: humor and laughter can both unite and divide people, and often do both at the same time. Moreover, humor often relies on the transgression of social and moral boundaries. Many instances of humor are based on saying or doing something that is taboo, forbidden, or painful – but through the specific stylization of the humorous form, this becomes enjoyable rather than painful or shameful. Using examples of humor from various countries, cultures, and historical periods, I thus highlight the social workings of humor – and the way humor highlights the workings of society. "

 

Biographies

Giselinde Kuipers is associate professor of Cultural Sociology at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She is also (part-time) Norbert Elias professor in the Sociology of Long-term Processes at Erasmus University Rotterdam and editor-in-chief of Humor: international journal of humor research. She has published widely in the fields of cultural sociology, the sociology of humor, media studies, and cultural globalization and transnational culture.  In 2006, she published Good Humor, Bad Taste: A Sociology of the Joke, comparing Dutch and American humor styles. From 2004 to 2009, she has been working on a research project, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), on the diffusion, translation and reception of American comedy in four European countries. She has already published several papers based on this and is currently working on a book about this project provisionally titled Comedy and hegemony: American television and European audiences in the transnational cultural field. But this title may well change.

 

Lee Campbell is an artist, curator and lecturer, currently undertaking PhD research at Loughborough University School of the Arts, UK. Since 2000, he works within public sphere participatory art practices where he uses humour as a strategy to explore audience involvement. He has exhibited with such artists as Tomoko Takahashi, Gary Stevens, Hew Locke, Mark Wallinger, Marcia Farquhar and Ryan Gander. In 2008, he was interviewed by Libby Purves on BBC Radio 4 Midweek about his performance Fall and Rise at Whitstable Biennale 2008. In 2005, he curated All For Show, a presentation of short films described as ʻslapstick theatricsʼ, ʻawkward and macabre sense of humourʼ and ʻcringingly funnyʼ, shown in various contemporary art spaces in New Zealand, Germany, The Netherlands and the USA. In March 2012, he organised an international humour and art symposium at Mostyn, Llandudno, North Wales entitled With Humorous Intent.