Here is a sad moment...
Characterized by an iterative structure and favoring modulating events to idol speculation, Meg Duguid and Catie Olson’s program navigated a space wherein process was investigated as an experiential device. At its core, Serious Laughter employed humor and absurdity as mediums with which contemporary aesthetic could be analyzed and its fraying bits snipped at the pleasure of a passerby’s joke. In their words this was, “based on a weird tracking of subject and object within a fictional world of serious laughter.”
This could have meant most anything, but it didn’t. It’s in fact a lovingly crafted piece of language that provides a specific literal introduction to a body of work whose feet existed in two streams of poetic distinction, with its patina of thrift and casual craft on one side and its postulations of action and experience on the other. This bit of doggerel, of tag line is in fact a very clever indication of the viewers “subjective” experience, much of which was wrapped around silent and not so silent observances of the body as an object that, creates, reiterates and disseminates text in the specific form of Art. “Based on a weird tracking of subject and object within a fictional world of serious laughter,” created a tacit consent with its audience by virtue of its accuracy in describing Duguid and Olson’s intention.
As tracking implies following or pursuit, it also implies intention. Ironically it’s this intention that was easiest to miss within Serious Laughter’s construct. But the thing is it was as there as the punch line in any joke. It was in fact so pervasive that the examination of any one piece offered a remarkable amount of insight into workings of the entire program. Its layout prescribed a situational foundation that made this possible even necessary as works had to coexist to function. In the case of What it all Means, a water colour representation of everything in the program and its placement within the gallery this becomes acutely evident as the show itself had to be constructed and hung entirely before this piece could be developed. Yet, What it all Means is clearly referenced in the documented correspondence between Duguid and Olson earlier in the year.
What it all Means, also provides an important chronological buffer for the work, as it acts as the distinctive point wherein Serious Laughter ceases to be a performance that Duguid and Olson are the primary participants of. After the completion of, What it all Means, Serious Laughter is transformed into a four week long performance that is mediated by the gallery and performed by its audience using the props that the artists have assembled for them. Making the banal inclusion of a chess board in the front room, far more significant as its inclusion personifies the relationship that the artists are forging with their respective audience in this fictional world of Serious Laughter.
Clown Car and C World were at the apex of this as both pieces formed nuanced theatres that highlighted succinctly the bond between artist and audience. Like nesting dolls, they were arranged so that they invited the viewer (participant) into static performative fantasies about looking. Settling on a couch or a toilet depending, they offered plastic moments of unkempt voyeurism in the one place were voyeurism, with its attending fetishistic qualities is not discouraged, the art gallery. This mode of hyper-textual theatre was then pushed even further by the artists with, The Joke Wall. As the gallery’s institutional role was usurped from a place for indicant texts and their believability to one of repression by an ever accumulating repository of low brow humor and the immediate critical response that accrued there. The audience (players), the unedited voice then relents to the same static conveyance that the artist relies on. By so doing they recreate the silent scrawl found in public bathrooms everywhere, but here it becomes anointed as an elevated action.
It is however what this work was not about that has been engaged most vociferously by unknown parties at the Butcher Shop. Since July 1st, their zeal in rallying against Meg and Catie and their work, with its casual appearance and mercurial substance has resulted in the vandalizing of 6 pieces over the course of 2 and a half weeks time. Typically, if this had happened in another space the artists would be notified and the damaged work would be quietly removed or replaced. Dogmatic however is not a typical space. Dogmatic is an ongoing series of relationships perched on the edge of a breath. Art after all can be housed in a garden shed, in fact in the future it might, but relationships can only be housed in the hearts and minds of a community.
When, so many years after Duchamp you can’t find the joke or take from it something progressive then maybe the institution wins, perhaps the big museum is right for the moment but Dave Hickey’s nostalgic butterflies certainly aren’t a substitute for real questions. This was a program with a light heart and deep questions. It invited its viewer’s participation openly and without bias. Its only request was that they be adults and pay attention. How shockingly different was that for a program by Artists? So on the 28th of July, I invite you as an adult, as an artist or as a viewer to bring to the Butcher Shop a piece of artwork to be destroyed. As Meg and Catie’s work has been remorselessly harassed by faceless critics at the Butcher Shop, I invite you to join us in reclaiming and rebuilding an idea. No, naughty words won’t be flung .
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