These twelve black and white photographs of men and women were exhibited together to form a group. They form part of a larger series The Human Song. Three colour portraits from the larger group were displayed outside of the gallery in the main staircase of the Goethe-Institute (first floor). They were featured as apart of that institution’s ongoing Visual Arts Programme.
The research was prompted by the neuroscientist Robert R. Provine’s remark that “laughter is a harlequin that shows two faces – one smiling and friendly, the other dark and ominous”. Provine’s research, published in American Scientist and elsewhere was based on extensive ‘observational’ study of laughter in everyday behaviour as part of human social vocalisation. Specific attention was paid to the lawful relationship between laughter and speech, gender difference and the biological basis of contagious activities including the phenomenon of contagious laughter. The researcher, through her practice based enquiries sought to explore these in visual terms by photographing sitters ‘caught’ in various stages of laughter. Laughter can be an expression of delight and appreciation but it can also have a blacker side as in the term ‘malicious laughter’. Simply put, as many studies have shown, there are some universally agreed subjects and situations that cause us to laugh, but humour can also be very personal even a quirk.
The portraits needed to collaborative, as it was important for the laughter to be natural. Conversation based on funny stories ensued during the portrait sessions and the core idea that laughter can be on the surface or mask contradictions was explored.
Installed in the galleries of the Goethe Institute in London in 2003, the two series are part of a larger investigation into the photographic portrayal of laughter beyond the limits of an individual likeness.
In exploring the gap between emotion and expression - capturing moments when laughter is not simply joyful - photography acts as a site of projection, making reference to collective memories and cultural imaginary.
The visual research was prompted by the neuroscientist Robert R. Provine's remark that "laughter is a harlequin that shows two faces - one smiling and friendly, the other dark and ominous". Provine's scientific investigation is based on an extensive 'observational' study of laughter in everyday behaviour as part of human social vocalisation. Put simply, as many studies have shown, there are some universally agreed subjects and situations that cause us to laugh, but laughter can also have a blacker side, as in 'malicious laughter'.
Through her practice-based enquiries, Wiebke Leister sought to explore these ´unjoyful´ laughs in visual terms by photographing sitters in various stages of seemingly rather spiteful expressions. The twelve black and white photographs of men and women from the series "Laughing in the Face of the Enemy" were exhibited to form a group treating with laughter as a reaction to an enemy, investigating the psychological vocabulary of disdain. Lighting and presentation give the sitters the appearance of classic Hollywood cinema celebrities - they look familiar, but they are not famous. Still, the apparent ´recognition´ of these characters is based on a play between familiarity and strangeness. The three colour images from the series "The Mocking Chorus" deal with rather sociological research into laughter. Through studying the isolating effect provoked by a laughing comradship, the work experiments with making the viewer feel like an outsider in front of the installation, turning him or her into an observed observer.
An exhibition of Max Beckmann paintings was shown simultaneously and was preceded by a conference held in memory of W. G. Sebald.
|Type of Research:||Art/Design Item|
|Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed:||RAE2008 UoA63|
|Your affiliations with UAL:||Colleges > London College of Communication|
|Date:||16 February 2003|
|Projects or Series:||The Human Song|
|Locations / Venues:|
|Measurements or Duration of item:||50 x 50cm|
|Deposited By:||INVALID USER|
|Deposited On:||03 Dec 2009 22:27|
|Last Modified:||02 Nov 2011 15:37|