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Preview: Double Act: Art and Comedy

 

This Friday evening sees the opening of our brand new exhibition Double Act: Art and Comedy here at Bluecoat. The exhibition brings together artists who use humour in their work, and explores how comedy helps us to shape meaning and negotiate the complexities of everyday life.
 The exhibition is itself a ‘double act’, and will be held at two venues, Bluecoat and The MAC, Belfast, with each venue presenting a different line-up of artists simultaneously. 

So what is it about comedy in visual art which is so compelling? And how do the two disciplines combine in an exhibition? Double Act’s curators David Campbell and Mark Durden discuss, and preview some of the works from the exhibition.  

The joke always has a healthy disrespect for structures and categories and when allied with art, can become a very unruly and volatile impulse. Double Act seeks to map out and interpret some of art’s great comedic moments.   

The pratfall of slapstick is revisited by a number of artists in Double Act.  In this show it is represented by Peter Land’s repeated quick comic falls and the painfully protracted pratfall of a sleep-deprived Maurice Doherty. 

There is a comic falling short in Kara Hearn’s video re-enactments of emotional scenes from Hollywood films, all set within her apartment and in which she plays all the roles.  Peter Finnemore works within the comic conventions of the Carnivalesque, in his homemade videos that create playful and absurdist counter-worlds from his rural back garden.  

Comedy can be seen to create a momentary respite from the dullness and heaviness of day-to-day reality.  Both David Sherry and Bill Woodrow can be seen to comically disrupt our engagement with the ordinary and familiar— Sherry skewing a normal conversation through his slapstick antics, while Woodrow cuts into familiar domestic appliances and out of them makes new objects that invite fantastic narratives.

The body and especially the naked body can cause laughter.  There is a strain of ‘Carry On’ humour among a number of artworks in this show: ranging from Erica Eyres’ drawings from 1970s nudist magazines to Gemma Marmalade’s innuendo-laden depictions of women holding oversized vegetables.

Art can be a pompous and self-important affair.  An important recurring characteristic of comedy in Double Act acknowledges art’s own vulnerability to comic deflation:  BANK make fun of the airs and graces of press releases, Thomas Geiger gives us an inventory of the absurd shenanigans that people have got up to in the name of art, while Doherty’s specially commissioned neon, laughs in the face of the assumed impartialities of our selection process for this exhibition.   

Double Act: Art and Comedy opens with a special launch event at Bluecoat at 6pm, Fri 8 Apr, and runs from Sat 9 Apr – Sun 19 Jun 2016.

The exhibition will also appear at The MAC, Belfast from Fri 6 May – Sun 31 Jul 2016.  

Image Credits from top to bottom: Peter Land, 'Pink Space' (2010) Courtesy of Galleri Nicolai Wallner and the Artist;  
Gemma Marmalade, Amanda with Cucumber, 2015, Courtesy the Artist;
Fax-Back (NY: Andrea Rosen);
Maurice Doherty, I Slept with The Curator To Get This Show (2016) Neon, Courtesy of the Artist

Tags:Exhibitions

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Bluecoat is Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the oldest in the UK. Our landmark building, located in the ...

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