‘The Exhibition Staircase’ – Thomas Rowlandson, 1800

'The Exhibition Staircase' - Thomas Rowlandson, 1800

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“If there is a possibility of transgression, it lies in humour rather than in comedy. Humour does not pretend, like Carnival, to lead us beyond our own limits. It does not fish for an impossible freedom, yet it is a true movement of freedom. When a real piece of humour appears, entertainment becomes avant-garde. Humour is a cold carnival”

– Umberto Eco ‘Frames of Comic Freedom’. Claims revolutionary implications of Carnival.

“Carnival’s therapeutic function is central to Mikhail Bakhtins conception of medieval ‘folk humour’, which he describes as ‘the social consciousness of all the people. Man experiences this flow of time in the festive marketplace, in the carnival crowd, as he comes into contact with other bodies of varying age and social caste. The purpose of carnival laughter is to present a contradictory and double-faced fullness of life. Negation and destruction (the death of the old) are included as an essential phase, inseparable from affirmation’. Today, in the postmodern era of electronic media and mass entertainment, we are entitled to be suspicious of this appeal for ‘affirmative’ art. Sarcasm and irony – precisely those tendencies that Bakhtin associates with Romantic individualism – may seem more appropriate and convincing.” – Roger Malbert

page 75, ‘Carnivalesque’ – National Touring exhibitions, by Timothy Hyman and Roger Malbert.

In “a nature that is mechanically tampered with” we possess a thoroughly comic theme, on which fancy will be able to play ever so many variations with the certainty of successfully provoking the heartiest hilarity.

Bergson, Laughter

“Artworks participate in enlightenment because they do not lie: They do not feign the literalness of what speaks out of them. They are real as answers to the puzzle externally posed to them. Their own tension is binding in relation to the tension external to them. “

Adorno – Aesthetics