Friday, January 25, 2008

Humour exhibition: Where are the cartoons?

The Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank is hosting an exhibition of art called Laughing in a Foreign Language until April 13. It brings together more than 70 videos, photographs and interactive installation works by more than 30 artists from all around the world. They're all artworks designed to make you laugh, so it's baffling that the show does not include any cartoons.

PCOer Bill Stott nearly choked on his cornflakes when he saw an item about it on breakfast TV today:

“Mainstream TV news is usually out of its depth when dealing with contemporary art, especially the difficult stuff where you can’t tell what it is, or when it's not Constable. Coverage is usually jokey and heads are shaken in disbelief. Emin, Hirst and others have become national treasures through it – not because of the quality of their work but because Joe Public wants to see what they get away with.

"The Hayward's current show, involving funny work by serious artists, featured on TV this morning. No punters were seen laughing. Or smiling. Some were sitting quietly (and seriously) contemplating a video showing a clown struggling through the jungle. Others were failing to don a joke head which the curator giggled at. But then she giggled at all the deeply unfunny exhibits.

"The brief glimpse – and it was brief, so I may be doing the Hayward powers-that-be a disservice here – was depressing. Here, apparently, was serious money being lavished on a well-presented show of distinct, serious failures. Gags were laboured and clunky, and all heads seemed firmly shoved up bottoms. It reeked of that preciousness often found in serious tomes about humour.

"Even more depressing is the suspicion that the giggling curator wouldn’t understand a good cartoon. Is that because cartoons aren’t serious? The show will be well attended by art wannabes and those cocooned in the unreality of an art bubble, people who don’t get jokes, and innocents who think the exhibits will make them laugh. Pity the poor innocents.”

Bloghorn says click S for Stott.

British cartoon talent