Wednesday November 14 2018
Opening Statement from the Scientific Committee
Panel 1 : Irony and Disciplinary Self-Critique
Chair: Samy Benammar
Mordre la main qui nourrit : la critique disciplinaire par l’humour en mode contemporaine
In the fashion industry, humor and comedy are sales strategies that give an impression of accessibility to luxury goods generally oriented for a minority of the population. However, for some creators, humor is used as advertisement but also as an affirmation of the self-referentiality, the reflexivity and the critical potential of the discipline. Humor, in this sense, can be seen as a symptom of the changes in the representation of fashion and its crystallization as an artistic discipline. So what is the scope of humor in a system where criticism is almost infallibly paradoxical?
La page facebook comme institution : vers une définition du mème ironique sur internet à travers la théorie institutionnelle de l'art
Our paper focuses on the phenomenon of ironic memes on Facebook, which we will analyze in the light of George Dickie's institutional theory of art, as well as Arthur Danto's The Artworld (1964). Similar to the "world of art" as described by these two authors, there exists a "world of the meme" constituted by pages which, by the recognition that they obtained in the medium, arrogate the right to decree what meme is ironic. In other words, in the same way that Brillo boxes become "art" when they are introduced in a museum, a meme has the potential to become ironic when it is shared on a page that has a reputation of being ironic. To illustrate our point, we will use images drawn from social networks, where the essence of this "world of the meme" is constituted.
Quand l'ironie ne suffit plus : le cas Shia LaBoeuf
According to David Foster Wallace, the intrusion of irony into television content and American commercials from the 1980s questions the relevance of the artistic practice of irony. By becoming an institutional tactic of representation, irony would have lost the ability to criticize the dominant system by promoting superficial and hegemonic cynicism. This warning from Foster was quickly detected in the artistic spheres and became an ascertainment : irony isn’t enough anymore. So when, in 2014, Shia LaBeouf joins the artist duo of Nastja Säde Ronkkö and Luke Turner (responsable for the Metamodern Manifesto Managers, 2011) for the #IAMSORRY performance, that's just what he is trying to answer: what to do after the irony? When everything was ironic, when even television is laughing at itself, what is left to say that has not been mocked, deconstructed, laid bare?
Ersy Contogouri, Université de Montréal
Conference Proceedings Launch Cocktail
Thursday November 15 2018
Maria Corrigan, Emerson College
Panel 2 : Laugh, Rites and Traditions
Chair: Philippe Depairon
Oralité, pastiche et nouveaux médias
Africa is a continent where orality is still alive. We can also affirm that it still has good days ahead, if we trust its current vitality. The conditions of its utterance (moment, place, form, enunciator, etc.) which were rigorously defined and framed seem much more flexible nowadays. For example, today with the Internet, virtual space has become the new context of privileged enunciation to the detriment of the family court or village. The whatsApp social network has become a virtual meeting place, for young people who create groups to which they give the name dingire (singing dingiral, means: place or space, in Peul language). In this new context, we see emerging a new form of literature based on essentially on the pastiche and parody of the great oral works among which we may mention pekaan 1; but beyond that, we also find scenes of everyday life (learning Sharia, reciting the Koran, for example) and serious subjects such as death, immigration, politics, through the derision of the actors.
Un humour relatif : du bouffon au bouc émissaire, le cas pathétique d’Ismael dans Rois et Reine d’Arnaud Desplechin (2004).
Ismael Vuillard, personnage principal du film Rois et Reine (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004), oscille entre un comportement fantasque proche de la bouffonnerie et une attitude hâtivement qualifiée de psychotique. Interné en hôpital psychiatrique à la demande de tiers, nous tenterons d'élucider les raisons de cet enfermement. En nous basant sur la théorie du rire d'Henri Bergson nous rappellerons d'abord le fonctionnement du rire humain ainsi que celui du comique avant d'étudier la fonction humiliante et corrective de ce rire dans une société principalement en quête de tranquillité. À travers l'analyse du personnage d'Ismael et de son langage dans un court extrait du film, nous tenterons d'analyser et de comprendre comment un comportement un peu exubérant susciterait le rire chez le spectateur. Qu'y a-t-il au-delà du rire, à partir de quel degré d'intranquilité ou de déviance selon une norme, un même comportement bascule du drôle au répréhensible - puis au menaçant - à travers une condamnation sociétale ?
Panel 3 : Humorous Devices
Chair: Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux
La hyène adulescente trickster et la maîtresse ignorante : L’humour et le jeu au cœur d’une pratique artistique et pédagogique
Does humor as an artistic process allow a rapprochement with a young audience? How to awaken the critical potential of youth in normative genres, myths and gendered symbols? What are the links with the cultural practices of young people, which unfold in various kinds of representation? Are there practices and languages to favor? To answer, an artist approaches humor as the main driving force of her creation, favoring the amalgam of disciplines; then, a pedagogue presents humor as a bridge between disciplinary genres, diversion of codes and subversion of gender. With the help of Freudian psychoanalytic theories, Koestlerian bisociation and queer studies, they perform their practice narrative. They thus expose the playful, transgressive and paradoxical potential of humor by embodying, for one, a persona of adulescente trickster with the effigy of a spotted hyena; for the other, an "ignorant" guide (Rancière) who throws students into the void by producing playful projects.
La signalisation routière comme dispositif humoristique
The research-creation of Alexandre Ménard focuses on the methods of producing and presenting the printed image. It is based on theories of humor and ironic and parodic strategies, by shifting codes and traditional aesthetic conventions of printmaking. In his work, he tackles the road signs of Quebec by parodically diverting these codified objects that condition our movements. By directly reusing their iconographic language, he reconfigures their pictograms to create new playful, narrative and sequential sets. It thus relates the devices of the road signaling to a mixture of processes associated with painting, comics and cinema. Doing so, he develops links between his work and the one of other creators, by transcoding previous works into road pictograms.
Timing is Everything: Comedy, Theatricality and Joke-Telling in Contemporary Art
This presentation will use my own works to argue that comedic methods can be deployed in ways that destabilize the act of looking, calling into question aesthetic presumptions in order to interrogate what we expect to gain when we experience a work of art. I further argue that these methods, by making apparent the transactional nature of both comedy and art, highlight the audience’s awareness of themselves as complicit in the piece and reframe perspectives of subject and object. In sum, I will draw on my own work, as well as Michael Fried’s framework of “absorption and theatricality” and David Robbins’s conception of “concrete comedy” – to establish general parallels between art and comedic performance, before using my own work to establish what those parallels might look like when they are the subject of art.
Panel 4 : Devaluation of Humorous Oeuvres
Chair: Juliette Bergeron
À contresens de l'humour : Les revues spécialisées et les comédies cinématographiques québécoises (1970-1975)
This presentation will provide a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the criticisms in the three major magazines specialized in cinema in the early 1970s (Séquences, Champ Libre and Cinéma Québec), facing a corpus of nine Quebec comedies. The latter were, in our opinion, the victim of a mechanism of symbolic violence set up by the modern intelligentsia who acted in a desire for distinction. Wishing to consolidate its status as a new elite vis-à-vis the former clerical guard, this community carried out a process of cultural selection, praising the "good objects" and defending the "bad ones". Finally, we will explore the social and aesthetic reasons of this position against the popular reception.
The Crude Education of Michael Snow’s High School (1979)
Michael Snow’s 1979 artist book High School – printed to simulate a spiral-bound notebook one might find in a teenager’s knapsack, its pages scribbled with test questions in the form of crude sexual doodles, juvenile puns, and head-scratching riddles – is a curio in Snow’s oeuvre that has received virtually no critical comment. This paper revisits High School as a means to discuss aspects of humour recurrent throughout Snow’s career as a visual artist and avant-garde filmmaker. A link will be drawn between Snow and Marcel Duchamp, who share a penchant for puns and adolescent – often sexist – humour, while retaining a markedly intellectual approach to art. This paper seeks to contextualize this mixed impulse, towards humour that is crude yet sophisticated, in the broader landscape of twentieth-century avant-garde art, where artists often position themselves as both naïf and genius – or, in the case of Snow’s High School, both schoolboy and schoolmaster.
L'humour de Katherine Jane Ellice (1813-1864)
Katherine Jane Ellice (1813-1864), a Scottish-born watercolorist and caricaturist, travels to Quebec City in 1838. Throughout her journey, she wrote a travel diary filled with irony, mockery and exaggeration in which she recounts many laughs. Her writings allow to find that laughter and humor are an integral part of her sociability and artistic production. As part of this presentation, I will be interested in the humorous content of Ellice's album held at Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. While historically women are not associated with humor, recognizing that they have a sense of humor allows to bring out a neglected part of their production, thus contradicting preconceived ideas of decorum and austerity associated with Victorian women and to offer a much more complex portrait.
Friday November 16 2018
Panel 5 : Postcolonial Reclamations
Chair: Ouennassa Khiari
C’est vraiment juste une blague? Quand l’humour devient vecteur de vivre ensemble
According to Meyer (2000), humor has two types of functions: "dividing" or unifying. Some also believe that humorous speeches build bridges between communities (Jerome 2010, Charaudeau 2013), while others believe that they can feed prejudices (Boskin 1990, Ziv 2010). For Aird (2004) however, humor is the mirror of society. From this point of view, if we consider humorous speeches as embodying a part of our social reflection, what image is projected by humor in Quebec? Do the concepts conveyed by these discourses give positive perspective on the collective life or on the contrary, do they testify to an erosion of the "social contract"? Based on an analysis of almost a hundred of excerpts from humoristic videos, this study aims to highlight some of the political dimensions, sometimes obvious, sometimes more subtle of Quebec’s humorous speeches, in terms of identity, pluralism or multiculturalism.
Will It Take Humor to End French Colorblindness? Addressing Race at the Marrakech du Rire
Today in France, humor may be the tool that allows the most freedom to address controversial topics, namely race. My presentation explores how comedians at the Marrakech du Rire—the world’s largest French-speaking comedy festival, broadcasted on French television every year—harness laughter in order to address what defines race and the experience of being racialized, both linguistically and corporeally. Despite the fact that France still struggles to accept racial terminology in the name of Frenchness—the Assemblée Nationale recently voted to remove the word “race” from the Constitution—, I argue that the comedy scene is one of the few discursive spaces that contradicts France’s institutionalized colorblindness.
anel 6 : Limits and Platforms of Feminist Humour
Chair: Anne-Gabrielle Lebrun Harpin
Abject Laughter: A Rearticulation of Gross-Out Comedy
Humour is frequently invoked as a marker of what differentiates the human from the nonhuman animal. However, this boundary between the human and nonhuman harbours many points of convergence as well as divergence, and laughter often erupts when this slippery border is revealed. This paper takes up the question of animality in relation to depictions of the abject female body that are not made horrific, but instead, become humorous. Instead of positioning the human as superior to the nonhuman animal, humour has the potential to present a joyous revolt against the constraints of civilized society, particularly for those whose bodies are disproportionately policed. This paper proposes that a rearticulation of gross-out comedy – which has traditionally been the purview of hegemonic social groups – has the potential to open up a space for an abject laughter that refutes the oppressive conditions of normative society.
The World Turned Up-Side-Down”: Cartoonists’ Ridicule of Woman’s Rights, from the Home to the White House, 1850-1861
In response to woman’s rights conventions of the 1850s, illustrated periodicals included cartoons ridiculing these reform efforts by depicting a “world turned up- side-down” through gender inversion. Caricaturists typically represented female figures in male attire and roles, and vice versa, rather than identifiable individuals. On occasion, however, cartoons in these periodicals mocked specific male politicians for failing to perform their duties as elected leaders. They were depicted in female clothing performing women’s domestic roles and exhibiting indecision and illogic, characteristics associated with women. This paper examines how political cartoons tapped into the general disapproval of woman’s rights, as cartoonists extended disdain for women’s claims to their individual autonomy and political participation to critiques of the nation’s highest elected leaders.
Ridiculus Pupulus Priapus: Ventriloquism in Mary Reid Kelley’s Priapus Agonistes (2013)
Known for a series of erudite, black-and-white videos (2009-2018), contemporary artist Mary Reid Kelley’s adaptations of classical mythologies are perverse, anachronistic, and funny. In all her videos, Reid Kelley creates stage-like setting for elaborately costumed characters, most played by the artist, to act out scripted narratives written in iambic pentameter. One, particularly humorous work is Priapus Agonistes (2013), which explicitly satirizes classical antiquity through a ventriloquial treatment of the main anti-hero Priapus. As I will argue, in Priapus Agonistes, an adaptation of Theseus and the Minotaur, Reid Kelley acts as a ventriloquist and, via Priapus, the “dummy”—a fact which makes the artist her own laughable, and ultimately ominous antagonist. What Reid Kelley achieves through this unusual strategy is the work of my analysis, which uses humor as the primary tool by which the artist’s subversions—of masculinity, classicism, and feminine archetypes—take place.
Angela Vanhaelen, McGill University
Closing Statement + Wine and Cheese