Photography performing humor

Liesbeth Decan and Mieke Bleyen

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 (Sontag 1977, 2003; Azoulay 2008). 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 connect the triad photography-perfomance-humor with the recent “affective turn” in photography theory. She will furthermore focus on humor as a fertile contact zone between vernacular and art photography and on new forms of ‘orality’ in photographic joke-work on social media.

Given the early stage of this research domain, an international symposium, including lectures, artists’ talks, portfolio viewings and performances, will be organized in order to assemble, exchange and confront different perspectives and approaches, both in theory and practice. Both researches will 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 during a critical practice Seminar. Finally, an exhibition on the work of Jacques Lizène and Lieven Segers, curated by Liesbeth Decan will run in the LUCA School of Arts gallery in Fall 2015.

Duration 
1 Jan 2015 to 31 Dec 2016