Laughing Matter

jest as art

To many, the seriousness of identity, and cultural heritage are not to be ridiculed. But the fact is, learning to ‘take a piss at oneself’ is really transcendental, and tests one’s limits and believes of an open mind. By stepping out of oneself, often allows a deeper insight into who we are. Art, at the heart of culture, may be the best meeting place for the ridiculous, lame ideas and serious, harsh reality.

The works in the clever exhibition can best be described as ticklish, some more provoking then others; some more baffling or lame. While one’s amusement may depend on one’s understanding the artists’ wider practices, the exhibition catalogue supercedes in strength  and clarity then the actual arrangement and presentation of the works. The works by the same artist were  split to suit the space, creating an uneasy juxtaposition of very different concepts, in too much space. For example, when you compare Chen Yi-Cheng’s “Feel Free to Donate Towards the Artist Integrity Fun”, and Cheo Chai Hiang’s “Ling Xiu”. Instead of enhancing each other, it made Chen’s piece very dislocated, and outright tacky, but not kitsch enough to fill the space.
The catalogue reveals the curator’s earnest, segmented discourse in laughter and humour and it’s unique position in our culture. He then delves into the individual works on exhibit, teasing it’s relationship to the theme of the exhibition. Not only does this provide a description of the work, it allows the reader to understand the intention of the artist and how the works possibly relate to each other conceptually.

Visually, the exhibition is too tamed, and clinical, perhaps a diliberate contrast to the puns. Some works pale because of scale and intensity of engagement with the theme, others are more successful as a series. Particularly striking, is Chua Aik Boon’s erasure of prominent buildings in his digital printed panoramas. Can you spot the missing Substation from the Armenian Street panorama? Maybe what the viewer needs is an audio guide with canned laughter, an empty room to trick the viewer, creating a tighter space for some of the works, and/or heavily armed security to warn visitors that smiling or laughing is strictly prohibited.

6.0 of 10 stars

NAFA Gallery 3
22 December 2007 – 17 January 2008

exhibition curated by Justin Loke

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