January 12th, 2019 - February 16th, 2019
curated by Satyajit Dave
Humour is the most subversive tool around. I don’t mean it as a joke. Perhaps that is why cultural practitioners across history have been drawn to the power of laughter. They have long understood that ridicule and humiliation backed up with irrefutable information can disarm power structures and put them on the spot, forcing a re-examination.
People in positions of power know that a witticism is capable of revealing the truth of a situation as a blunt statement of fact. Perhaps, this why there are comedians behind bars incarcerated for, well, being funny. Only the extremely (an I can’t stress enough on extremely) liberal and tolerant power structures are open to being made fun of. It is a tricky game to find a balance. At times, it’s a balance between life and death (I don’t mean this metaphorically).
In the space of visual and literary culture, one experiences the efficacy of humour via Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, Andre Breton’s Anthology of Black Humour (1940), Kara Walker’s blistering employment of caricature, Richard Pryor’s brilliantly acerbic takedowns of racism, Mike Kelley’s caustic cabrets, Samuel Beckett’s absurdist plays, and beyond. Some of them are Dadaist, some – like many others across various disciplines – influenced by the Dadaist. Dada’s prevailing influence has proved the value of humour as a form of protest about the fact that life is irrational, unreasonable, and far too short.
This might come across as cynical. However, I prefer it to be seen with a sense of irony. For irony depends on the ability to hold contradictory ideas. Irony opens up the space for more than one meaning to fly, in the process revealing hidden agendas. Further, it is through Irony that in the most roundabout ways one raises a sense of camaraderie – a sense that we are all in this mess together. Case in point – R.K. Laxman’s caricatures of the common-man.
The world has its moments of peace and war. Life has its ups and downs. For the number of people spreading violence and harm, there are those spreading peace and happiness. Humour helps us accept these dualities, and rejuvenate us with the much –needed energy to stand-up and join this marathon of life.
With this, it brings me great pleasure to introduce to you #death of common-sense. A long term curatorial project which aims to explore various facets of humour across visual culture. This edition opens up its viewers to 6 artists employing strategies of humour from slapstick, to absurdity, to witticism and irony. We are alos delighted to have the opportunity to include as a part of the exhibition, a book by Art Historian and Pedagogue the Late Parvez Kabir. The book was published posthumously by Kalabhavan Santiniketan for the 2018 Nandan Mela.