Each year since spring 2011, Haus der Kunst has presented two exhibitions of media art from the Goetz Collection in its air-raid shelter. The exhibitions are alternately curated by Haus der Kunst and the Goetz Collection. Part seven of this cooperative project is devoted to slapstick, comedy, and black humor.
Francis Alÿs presents a movement sequence in which a dog running across the street continually causes the same man to fall down. The scene is shot from different angles - from ground level, from a first-story window, from front, diagonal opposite positions, from the perspective of the dog, and from that of CCTV.
While Alÿs's stumbler immediately gets up and continues, Paul Pfeiffer depicts football players whose various clashes with an opponent have consequences. The players fall, remain lying on the grass, and writhe in pain. The opponent is cut from the scenes so that the falling motion of the injured appears bizarre. The work's title, Caryatid, is a metaphor. Like the Caryatids in Greek architecture, the actors carry a burden under which they, unlike the Caryatids, threaten to collapse. The viewer is faced with the morally charged question of whether it's okay to laugh at such scenes.
Works such as First by Olaf Breuning or Hungry Hungry Hippoes by Nathalie Djurberg expand the selection of works to include black humor. They show encounters that are entertaining only for some of the characters. Breuning films five bored young men who go for a joyride; they stop a boy along the roadside, strip him, threaten him with golf clubs, and chase him across a field. The event borders on physical harm, and crosses over to mental abuse. Similarly, in Djurberg's piece, three fair-skinned dolls with rolls of fat and red mouths tenderly hug a small dark-skinned child to pass the time, but threaten to crush her. Through the soundtrack of clucking and farting sounds, the events, which resemble something between affection and abuse, become grotesque. This kind of humor thrives on cruelty and oppression, and demands that the viewer proactively decide to what extent the comedy is appealing as he or she rejects it due to its cruelty. Breaking taboos - here in the form of violence against the defenseless - is a popular strategy in the visual arts, used to move the viewer emotionally and, in so doing, to touch on socially relevant issues.
Laughter gets stuck in the viewer's throat and changes to dismay or compassion when other people are embarrassed or harmed. Such is the case with the title work, the video installation "Broken" by Tony Oursler. It shows a male doll whose head is stuck between chairs. The situation appears lifelike, especially because the tortured facial expressions of a living human being are projected onto the doll's face. It seems unnatural to laugh at the predicament in which the character finds himself. It just may be possible that laughter and compassion are mutually exclusive.
Curated by Ingvild Goetz and Cornelia Gockel
Pawel Althamer, Cardinal, 1991
Francis Alÿs, Choques, 2005-2006
John Bock, Gute Stube, 2006
Olaf Breuning, First, 2003
Nathalie Djurberg, Hungry Hungry Hippoes, 2007
Peter Fischli & David Weiss, The Way Things Go, 1986/1987
Rodney Graham, A Reverie Interrupted by the Police, 2003
Mike Kelley, The Banana Man, 1982
Jochen Kuhn, Die Beichte, 1990
Aernout Mik, Garage, 1998
Martin Mirko, Eine Rede, 2005
Tony Oursler, Broken, 1994
Paul Pfeiffer, Caryatid (Red, Yellow, Blue), 2008
Robin Rhode, Color Chart, 2004-2006
Julian Rosefeldt, Stunned Man (Trilogy of Failure) / Part II, 2004/2005
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