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On Humor And Absurdity In Arts

By Mina Zarfsaz

Humor is a powerful tool in challenging norms and attitudes of individuals. When absurdity is involved, a viewer engages with different representations of reality.

However, the extreme in which artists engage with absurdity, is absurd on its own level. Most artistic engagements in this type of humor, reflect on the idea of “self” as though the absurd version of reality of self is more illuminating than the reality of it.

Marc Quinn’s Self for example, is not just a self-portrait of the artist, but one that literally uses his body as material since the cast of Quinn's head, immersed in frozen silicone, is created from ten pints of his own blood. In this way, the materiality of the sculpture has both a symbolic and real function. The work was made at a time when Quinn was an alcoholic and a notion of dependency – of things needing to be plugged in or connected to something to survive – is apparent since the work needs electricity to retain its frozen appearance. A further iteration made every five years, this series of sculptures presents a cumulative index of passing time and an ongoing self-portrait of the artist's aging and changing self. (1)

Marc Quinn . 1991-present . Blood (artist's), stainless steel, Perspex and refrigeration equipment208h x 63w x 63d cm

Drawing back to Laura’s work, she also engages with the idea of “self” or "personhood" in an absurd way that seems more trusting in portraying self and its history than a true reflection.

Laura’s Blood Scarf depicts a scarf knit out of clear vinyl tubing. The speculative intravenous device emerging out of the user's hand fills the scarf with blood. The implied narrative is a paradoxical one in which the device keeps the user warm with their blood while at the same time draining their blood drop by drop. (2)

Laura Splan . domesticated-bodies . 2002 chromogenic prints mounted on aluminum
diptych, 24H x 20W inches each

In Placebo, the oversized renderings of antipsychotics and antidepressants provide a different kind of comfort than their prescription counterparts. (3)

Laura Splan . Placebo. 2000 . latch hook on canvas, polyester filling
11H x 36W x 11D inches each

In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean "logically impossible", but rather "humanly impossible”.(4)

Absurdity in art shows an inverted and contradictory version of reality that juxtaposes multiple realities in order to invite people to look at life differently.


(2) (3)

(4) Wikipedia/absurdism