Broken. Slapstick, Comedy, and Black Humor — Sammlung Goetz at Haus der Kunst

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Exhibition overview

Schadenfreude is a fundamental human emotion. The slapstick, comedy and black humor genres developed in the entertainment and film industries as a way for people to laugh with impunity at the misfortune of others. Slapstick is a special form of comedy that requires little dialogue. It entices viewers to laugh at things that are viewed from a different vantage point, one that is often anything but funny.

The seventh exhibition of the series Sammlung Goetz at Haus der Kunst brings together fourteen media artworks that explore and, often intentionally, cross these boundaries. Breaking taboos is a popular strategy used in the visual arts as a way to move viewers emotionally, thereby allowing socially relevant topics and issues to be addressed at a more immediate level. Works such as Olaf Breuning's First or Nathalie Djurberg's Hungry Hungry Hippos clearly demonstrate that many situations are amusing only to a selected group of viewers. This kind of humor, which also occurs in ordinary life, largely feeds off the kind of cruelty and oppression that comes to the fore in these works. 

The exhibition's title "Broken" refers to Tony Oursler's eponymous video installation in which a male doll's head is stuck between two chairs. Although plaid fabric merely suggests a body, the situation appears very lifelike because a real person's facial expressions are projected onto the doll's face. It is unclear how the man has gotten into this predicament; one only sees strange grimaces emitting odd sounds. Even Sigmund Freud explored humor's psychological relief. But how far is too far when political, moral, and religious feelings are hurt?  

The exhibition presents works by Pawel Althamer, Francis Alÿs, John Bock, Olaf Breuning, Nathalie Djurberg, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Rodney Graham, Mike Kelley, Jochen Kuhn, Mirko Martin, Paul Pfeiffer, Robin Rhode and Julian Rosefeldt.

An exhibition in partnership with