Marfa Dialogues

Deep Comedy

Fischli and Weiss, Isa Genzken, Jef Geys, Rodney Graham, Christian Jankowski, Japanther, robbinschilds, Julia Scher, Roman Signer, Michael Smith, William Wegman, John Wesley, Joshua White, Elin Wikstrom

23 March - 30 July 2007


OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, March 23, 6pm

Deep Comedy is an exhibition of work by artists whose conceptual practices are underpinned by humor. Brought together by artist Dan Graham and independent curator Sylvia Chivaratanond, the works in Deep Comedy transform elements of the commonplace into playgrounds for amusement through a wide range of media including sculpture, video, installation, photography, and performance. Through work by Fischli and Weiss (Switzerland), Isa Genzken (Germany), Jef Geys (Belgium), Rodney Graham (Canada), Christian Jankowski (Germany), Japanther (USA), Julia Scher (USA), Roman Signer (Switzerland), Michael Smith (USA), William Wegman (USA), John Wesley (USA), Joshua White (USA), and Elin Wikström (Sweden), traditional modes of viewing are subverted via surprising forms of delivery and display.

Deep Comedy embraces the oxymoronic nature of the funny — where banality, irreverence, and trauma occasion the deepest bestial laughs. In the works presented, easy allies are made of critical thought and humor, intellectualism, and play. For these artists, critique of current socio-political and artistic institutions, though serious, take the form of playful, absurd and sarcastic gestures. They undermine the earnestness and solemnity of authoritarian projects and insidious systems of social organization.

Core themes of Dan Graham’s own art practice are recognizable in Deep Comedy. Architecture as a mechanism of power to govern and control physical and psychological space has been an ongoing interest to Graham since the 60s, as has his artistic engagement and writings on the public and private functions of television and video as transmitters (and receivers) of information. The artist’s intention to create situations where viewers become conscious of their own perception filters through in Deep Comedy where artists impugn the conventions of production and display of artworks, the certitude of the museum or art institution, and the rarefied status of works of art. Underwriting these various points of intersection between the works in Deep Comedy is an anarchic sensibility and an urge for expressions of disdainful amusement.

Deep Comedy will open with a night of performances on Friday 23 March 2007. Brooklyn-based punk-rock duo Japanther will present a jump-in-the-fire performance of “Laugh Dance,” a new work conceived and performed with New York dance company RobbinsChilds. At 10pm at Ray’s Bar, Elin Wikstrom will be conducting the first part of her performance for Deep Comedy, an art-style pub quiz with invited artists, curators and collectors alongside Marfa folk as contestants. Wikstrom will host the second night of the quiz on Saturday night at 7pm.

Opening weekend festivities culminate at Ballroom’s Liberty Hall on Saturday, March 24th, with a rare live appearance from the composer, musician, and artist Sam Prekop.

Sam Prekop is one of the architects of the influential and highly innovative Chicago underground music scene. Long known for the naturalistic alloy of jazz-inflected compositions and exotic textures that he helped pioneer with his indie-rock projects Shrimp Boat and the Sea and Cake, Prekop managed, as ever, to confound expectations with his most recent solo release, Who’s Your New Professor, an album of airy abstractions and a chiming, unusually electric aesthetic. Prekop will be performing at Liberty Hall with fellow Sea and Cake musician collaborater Archer Prewitt — himself a noted presence on the Chicago scene — for this very special Ballroom evening. Showtime is 9 pm. This event is free.

    Japanther with robbinschilds at Liberty Hall, March 23, 2007, celebrating the opening of Ballroom Marfa’s exhibition, Deep Comedy. Video courtesy of Japanther.

    NY Arts Magazine, Spring 2007