Call for papers: ARARA, Art and Architecture of the Americas, No. 12, 2014

Posted: 8 October 2014 by Dr Sarah Demelo in News  

Tagged: ARARA   CFP

The Poetics and Politics of Humour in Contemporary Art of the Americas

Humour features prominently in the history of contemporary art. From painting to photography, from conceptual to mixed media and performance art, humour has been a common strategy deployed by artists within a wide range of art practices. In spite of the extensive tradition of humorous manifestations in art and the recent upsurge of exhibitions and public discussions on this matter, the topic of humour has been largely overlooked in the study and criticism of artistic productions. The next edition of ARARA, No. 12, aims to contribute to the scholarship around this topic by exploring the relationship between aesthetics and humour in the Americas. Humour is an exemplary practice because, although relative and context-specific, it is a universal human activity. While Sigmund Freud’s view of humour as a release of repressed desires and thoughts played a key role for the avant-garde (André Breton), many contemporary artists have explored a wide range of different possibilities. Some artists have researched the cognitive potential of humour and its relation to language through puns, word games and comical pairings of text and image. Others have used strategies of defamiliarisation to explore how humour shifts the way we perceive reality and ourselves. As proposed by Simon Critchley, the humanity of humour is being able to laugh at oneself, in finding oneself ridiculous. In its ludic dimension, humour introduces an element of uncertainty and disruption which counterbalances the structure provided by ritual (law). Many artists have used the body as a tool to resist dominant culture, often employing the carnivalesque through strategies of the grotesque such as displacement, exaggeration, and the creation of hybrid symbols (Mikhail Bakhtin). The body has also been used in authoritarian regimes, such as dictatorships, to potentiate collective enjoyment against oppression and fear. In this sense, laughter, as a bodily expression of humour, follows an ethical project (Georges Bataille).

Artistic feminist practices have relied on wit, satire, irony and play to challenge and transgress patriarchal hegemony by questioning gender roles, unequal gender representations, and notions of femininity. Furthermore, feminist artists have used humour to question art history’s male dominated discourse and as a form of institutional critique. Similar deployments of humour like the absurd, ridicule, parody, and sarcasm have been used by artists against the formality and elitism of the art world, and to unsettle the acceptable limits of humour within institutional structures. While humour may have a subversive potential, it can also be used as a form of coercion and/or to reproduce power structures. Is humour used to perpetuate the normative system or rather, to defy it? This issue of ARARA aims to explore this and other questions that interrogate how humour may function within contemporary art practices in the context of the Americas. We welcome contributions in English or Spanish in the form of articles, reviews or interviews. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

// Humour as an alternative mode of perception and meaning 
// The revolutionary potential of humour: humour as subversive and /or liberating strategy 
// The role of humour in community building or social exclusion
// Humour to critique or unmask authoritarian, colonial, hegemonic, institutional contexts
// Humour in the (re)creation of subjectivity and identity politics
// Masking the humorous/humour as masquerade
// Black humour
// The performativity of humour 
// The body politics of humour
// Gender and humour
// Carnivalesque and the festive 
// The laughing grotesque
// Humour’s therapeutic function
// Play and the ludic in humour
// The relation between ethics and humour

If you would like to contribute to the upcoming issue of ARARA please send a 300-word abstract to no later than 15 November, 2014. 

For further details, please consult the submission guidelines in our webpage:

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