Laughing is a serious business


I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by Adam Buxton at Leeds College of Art last night, talking about his journey from Art School to success. However the one thing that struck me, was the question of whether art is as good if it is humorous? Does laughter devalue art? Does laughter make the art less important? It can be said that the general feeling is that for fine art to be taken seriously it has to be, well serious. You can’t surely be dedicated to your art form if you throw a bit of humour in there with it. You must be taking the proverbial piss!

This has got me thinking. Why do we undervalue laughter, when it is one of the most important reactions we can have for a healthy mind? I know I would rather be laughing than crying, I make no small assumption that I am not alone in this. If last night was anything to prove, Buxton’s humble and endearing presentation had the auditorium enthralled, inspired and in stitches. We left feeling cheerful, making jokes amongst ourselves, feeling confident that Buxton’s self deprecation is something we can relate to as artists. Self doubt is never far away when it comes to the work I produce, but hearing someone as successful as Buxton express similar self doubt is encouraging, it is normal, challenge it and believe in yourself. Although he states that his work is still very much on the sidelines, it’s here he feels most comfortable, but who’s to say that this is the wrong place to be? Success is only as comparative as to the ideals you want to achieve, with his video work, he enjoys creating humorous snippets, sometimes abstract, sometimes mocking, but always putting a smile on faces (rash generalisation, but our auditorium last night most likely agrees with me on that one), I feel maybe he has achieved this.

Which takes me back to the point about art being serious. I genuinely feel that art is whatever you want it to be.

The beauty of the arts is the fact that anyone can take part, whether that is through the creation, or by looking, listening, feeling, an audience are as much the collaborators in the process. To take the banality of reality talent shows as an analogy we can begin to see how the change in negative criticism to positive encouragement has begun to creep into the mainstream. X-factor, a show that mocks people for trying, even if they are delusional and probably never going to make it professionally, should we really be asking them to stop what they are doing and never sing again? Got To Dance, a show that encourages people to continue to dance even if they wouldn’t be able to create a career out of it. The big difference here is the promotion of participation and acknowledgement that the activity brings a sense of happiness to the individual, and a sense of belonging, they may not be the best but they are certainly still part of something.

And happiness is an incredibly important emotion we all strive for. For me, one of the ways in which I find that happiness is from being with friends, laughing, making jokes and simply being relaxed, forgetting about my inner grumblings for a little while. And if this is incredibly important for a healthy mind and a more functional society, then surely art that focuses on humour is just as important as art that looks at serious issues.

The inspiration I took from this talk was the desire to create a project that is humorous, not looking at humour in a documentary or critical manner, but just humorous. You may not get it, but if it makes you laugh, I have achieved a very important thing in my art!

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Ok, ok, I didn’t take these photos, but they make me smile, who can’t resist a cute photo of a chimp grimace, or an absurdly named Sarcastic Fringehead, or a spot the small face? I defy you!