Seth Rogen’s Shamelessness

Obliviousness is a crucial component of comic license. And our pleasure in obliviousness is partly pleasure in witnessing and sympathetically participating in the avoidance of humiliation, a condition which we are acutely and continually preoccupied with evading. While a relish for resilience and recovery is at the core of our enjoyment of obliviousness, part of… Continue reading Seth Rogen’s Shamelessness

Maurizio Cattelan: ‘Comedian’

Many of the responses to Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian’ – the banana taped to the wall at Art Basel Miami Beach – take a familiar stance, decrying a fundamental superficiality or worse in his comic approach - intent to defraud, for instance, or a desire to ‘put one over’ on the audience. Jerry Saltz for one,… Continue reading Maurizio Cattelan: ‘Comedian’

Shona Macnaughton: Progressive?

Shona Macnaughton is one of four artists in the new exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, the sixth and final instalment in the NOW series. While the show as a whole has much to commend it, the room documenting her performance of 2017, Progressive, is particularly intriguing. Introduced as relating to ‘the politics… Continue reading Shona Macnaughton: Progressive?

Twitter Wit

Social media activity is frequently condemned by commentators for fostering an ‘instrumental mode of grasping the world as a collection of objects for control, consumption and accumulation’ (Schwarz 85) thus engendering an exploitative attitude to creativity and sociability. For Ori Schwartz for instance, ‘this exploitation of the present’ leads to ‘the constant search for valuable… Continue reading Twitter Wit

Jeff Koons: is he for real?

Jeff Koon’s new sculpture, Bouquet of Tulips, which commemorates the victims of terror attacks in France in 2015 and 2016, has just opened in Paris. As is the case with most of his work, the piece has prompted considerable critical suspicion, largely about the purity of his intentions. Offered as a gift by the artist in… Continue reading Jeff Koons: is he for real?

Kara Walker’s burlesque memorial

Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus, a 13-metre fountain that references the legacies of the British empire and the transatlantic slave trade is the latest Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern. Modelled on the Queen Victoria memorial outside Buckingham Palace, it is, as Alastair Sookes puts it, ‘a burlesque version’ of the original memorial, as well as a… Continue reading Kara Walker’s burlesque memorial

Milkman: humour in a traumatised society

Critics have frequently commended the humour of Anna Burns’s Milkman (2018), but beyond descriptions of the novel as ‘charmingly wry’ (New Yorker) or ‘darkly comic’ (The Telegraph), there has been little real insight into the part humour plays. This critical disinterest in humour - particularly in literature-  is widespread, partly because comedy has long been seen as a mere add-on or… Continue reading Milkman: humour in a traumatised society

Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace

The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is often described – rather dismissively – as a prankster. His new exhibition at Blenheim Palace, however, has been much applauded for revealing a deeper, more thoughtful aspect to his practice. While the disdain demonstrated in responses to his previous work as ‘mere’ jokes or one-liners reiterates a conception of comedy… Continue reading Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace

British drabness vs American glamour

The US sitcom Speechless is one of a groundswell of recent television shows with a disabled main character. Special on Netflix and Jerk on BBC3 were created by and star actors with cerebral palsy, while Don’t Forget the Driver on BBC 2, also has a central character with the condition. All are billed are comedies, although the latter is frequently very dark. It… Continue reading British drabness vs American glamour

Visually countering the complexly embodied disabled character

Watching three recent comedies which feature characters with disabilities, I notice a similarity in the techniques which seek to address a mainstream, able-bodied tension around the disabled body. Speechless is an ABC sitcom about a white family with a teenage son – J.J - with cerebral palsy, who needs an aide to communicate. Kenneth, his aide, whom… Continue reading Visually countering the complexly embodied disabled character