Double Act: Art and Comedy – Bluecoat, Liverpool

David Campbell, Mark Durden

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

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This exhibition is the first phase of a major two- part, twin venue, curatorial project curated by David Campbell and Mark Durden. The overall project features work by 32 internationally significant artists, each of who deploy a range of comedic strategies in their art. The exhibition is structured to highlight thematic comedic strategies including comic inversion, the everyday, slapstick, irony, wit, deadpan, mockery and the carnivalesque. Occupying all six galleries of the Bluecoat, Liverpool, the exhibition includes work by: Bill Woodrow, BANK, Thomas Geiger, Peter Land, Common Culture, Gemma Marmalade, Pilvii Takala, Jo Spence, Sarah Lucas, Maurice Doherty, Alex Bag, David Sherry, Erica Eyres, Peter Finnemore and Kara Hearn. Double Act presents the multiple forms of the comedic as it is manifest through the experience of contemporary art. Drawing together artists from diverse cultural and political contexts, each of whom share an interest in humour as a resource with which to animate their art practice and connect with an audience, both local and international, this exhibition explores questions of cultural distinctiveness in an increasingly globalised world. Within the project a wide variety of media is presented to communicate different approaches to comedy, ranging from the bodily humour of slapstick to more conceptual articulations of wit and absurdity. A high proportion of artists exhibited at Bluecoat explore the vulnerability of the human body and its fragility, the social construction of gendered identity and the awkwardness of failing. To further explore the project’s theme of duality, the exhibition was itself a “double act” and took place two venues, opening first at Bluecoat in Liverpool, and then its companion show at MAC in Belfast, with each venue presenting a different line up of artists simultaneously. Both institutions exhibited a specially commissioned neon work by Maurice Doherty spelling out the phrase “I slept with the curator to get this show,” a playful and provocative piece which uses humour to undermine the assumed impartialities that lie behind curatorial decisions and exhibition making today. Other works include Gemma Marmalade's photographs from her 2015 Seed Series (Green-Fingered), which give a new twist to the well-used innuendo of funny-looking vegetables by suggesting a relationship between female gardeners' sexuality and the size of their crop. Erica Eyres’s drawings based upon photographs in nudist magazines, dating from the 1970s, rely on the comedy of the body and anxieties about nakedness. The exhibition examines how comedy goes far beyond the business of making us laugh: it has long been a powerful tool for social change and a means of undermining authority. What we find funny can also be cruel, establishing symbolic boundaries that divide people, setting those with power against those without and vice-versa. A programme of literature, comedy and physical theatre was programmed in association with Double Act: Art and Comedy at Bluecoat. Related events included: Fri 8 Apr Exhibition Launch Join us for the launch of Double Act. Mingle with the artists, have a drink at the bar, and take in the atmosphere. Sat 9 Apr Exhibition Tour: David Campbell and Mark Durden Exhibtion curator, David Campbell leads a tour of the exhibition. Sat 9 Apr Crit-a-Oke 10 artists set academic texts to pop music -- its critical writing karaoke. Thu 21 Apr How Not (!) To Write Laura Robertson discusses art jargon and why we should avoid it. Fri 22 Apr Arabs Are Not Funny An evening of Arabic comedy from a new wave of stand-up comedians representing the Arab World. Wed 27 Apr LJMU Writer's Wrokshop Present: The Comedy of Error An evening of readings in which error, misfortune and misadventure all feature -- dark comedy from Steve Ely and Samuel Hasler. Wed 25 May What's There to Laugh About? A lively, day-long symposium questioning how humour is currently used in performance making, presenting and programming. Sat 28 May Exhibition Tour: Cathy Butterworth Performer, curator and researcher in Live Art practices, Cathy Butterworth leads a tour of Double Act. Wed 1 Jun Artists Talk: Harry Meadley Artists Talk, devised by Harry Meadley, sits somewhere between an artist talk and a stand-up routine. Sat 4 Jun Exhibition Tour: Frances Greenfield Creator of THAT Comedy Blog Frances Greenfield leads a tour of the exhibition. Wed 8 Jun Double Act Book Launch & Panel Discussion Artists Gemma Marmalade and Mel Brimfield join exhibition curators Mark Durden and David Campbell to celebrate the launch of the Double Act: Art in Comedy limited edition publication and discuss comedy as an artistic strategy within their own practice. With performances throughout the evening by David Sherry. Thu 9 Jun A Philosophy of Comedy Drawing on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, the films of Charlie Chaplin, the TV show Family Guy and Samuel Beckett's Endgame, Shaun May addresses a distinctive characteristic of human beings: our ability to make and comprehend jokes. Interview with curators:
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2012
EventDouble Act: Art and Comedy - Bluecoat, Liverpool
Duration: 9 Apr 2012 → …


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