Monday, July 2, 2007

Seriously Funny

Ever notice how really good serious art has humor? Gordon Matta-Clark is a prime example. You’ll be watching a video of him cutting through the layers of a building, thinking about all the implications of doing so, admiring the formal quality of it. Then all of a sudden, you’ll find yourself laughing; not only because of the oddity, but because of the attempt (and success) of going beyond what is deemed possible; or because the act or image is so simple, it’s obvious and true.

I’m not sure if an artist can go into a piece with the intention of making it funny. I think humor might be a result, not a motive. But, I’d love examples in which it isn’t.

Now, with good comedians, it’s the opposite. They go in with the intention of humor, and what emerges, when it’s really good, is gloomy truth. Richard Pryor.

Now, of course, I'm not talking irony. Irony is anti-art, in my mind. And, while irony in general seems to be waning on the cultural level, it’s still out there, and as dangerous as ever. In this category, I lump: “boy art” (white guys who literally recreate messy rooms in galleries because they can. I ask, who’s gonna clean that shit up?); most burlesque (women acting out sexual fantasies); and political sarcasm.


Vito Polly-Vincent said...

So many great issues raised here. Impossible to address them all. I share a lot of your discomfort with irony. But I think what you are uncomfortable with is merely irony in its contemporary incarnation, wherein the ironic gesture subverts received commonsense but ultimately offers nothing beyond a momentary negation. (I sound like a graduate seminar in cultural studies). But there are more meaningful forms of irony as well. Maybe that's a conversation for another time...

Vito Polly-Vincent said...

Also: Didn't know you were a Richard Pryor fan. You can watch tons of his standup shows from the 70s on YouTube. Great stuff.

Molly Stevens said...

Vito Polly-Vincent!

What's an example of meaningful irony (no matter the form)? And while of got your attention, what's the diff. between sarcasm and irony?

Will check out YouTube, although navigating that site kind of gives me the heejibejes.