Photography performing Humor, Liesbeth Decan

Jacques Lizène, Contraindre le corps à s’inscrire dans le cadre de la photo (1971) © Jacques Lizène - Courtesy of Galerie Nadja Vilenne, Liège

Photography performing Humor

  • Project Leader: Liesbeth Decan (LUCA Faculty of the Arts, RU Intermedia, RG Photography Expanded)
  • Team: Mieke Bleyen (KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts, RU Literature and Culture (Cultural Studies), Lieven Gevaert Research Centre)

This research project explores the nature and meaning of the relationship between photography, performance and humor within the field of the visual arts and visual culture, filling in an important lacuna within photography research. For although humor is omnipresent in a wide spectrum of photographic practices—ranging from family snapshots with their obligatory "smile" or tower of Pisajokes to advertisement or art photography - the topic has as yet not been discovered by researchers. Until today, the affective component of photography has been mainly associated with photographic representations of suffering and the ethical call, or even contract these images are able to generate with(in) the viewer (Sontag 1977, 2003; Azoulay 2008). It is no coincidence then, that Roland Barthes related the affective power of photographs to the wound (punctum). This project resolutely chooses to elaborate the more light, humoristic side of photography. More specifically, Liesbeth Decan will investigate the uses of humorous strategies within photo conceptualism (exploring the case studies of Jacques Lizène, Ger Van Elk and William Wegman). From a cultural studies perspective, Mieke Bleyen will reflect upon the theoretical-philosophical implications of the connections between humor, photography and performance. Given the early stage of this research domain, the applicants will organize an international symposium, including lectures, artists’ talks, portfolio viewings and performances, in order to assemble, exchange and confront different perspectives and approaches, both in theory and practice. Recently, humor seems to emerge in the practices of (young) contemporary artists and photographers, which might signal a new artistic tendency. In line with this development, the applicants want to share and test out their preliminary research results with the findings of the Master students Photography of LUCA and the MA students Cultural Studies of KU Leuven, who will collaborate in a critical practice seminar. This will result in a small exhibition in which the students’ research results will be put into dialogue with work from to the applicant’s case studies. Finally, the proceedings of the conference will be published as a volume within the Lieven Gevaert Series (LUP).

  • Duration: 2014-
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