Joel Tretin calls himself a Photo Humorist and that description seems perfectly apt. His photo series Stranger in Paradox “looks at what’s true and totally screws with it.” At first glance, the pictures seem deceptively straightforward—portraits of the city shot in a somewhat generic ad-agency aesthetic. Hidden in plain sight are the visual jokes: a parking ticket on the windshield on a sports car in a building height ad; a carousel over a revolving door; an elephant walking though the green murkiness of a subway. The Photoshop manipulations are mostly seamless—it really looks like that woman is pushing an eight-seat stroller, and that sporty yellow cab looks real next to its stodgier brother. A stack of cars make the most of a lone parking space.
The subtlest images make you work for them. A lit Wall Street façade, American flags… oh, there. The don’t walk sign is flipping the bird. The traffic sign points to the “Road Most Taken” an apparent play on Robert Frost’s Road Less Taken.
Photo manipulation in art is often used to create surreal imagery. And these pictures are surreal in that they portray things that are unreal and often fantastic, but the photos lack the intention and technique that transform pictures into fine art. Which seems to be just fine with Trentin, who says:
I am a failed stand up comedian, who now tries to make people laugh through photography.
From re-blogging work by other artists to generating your own solo digital exhibition, the ability to collect and show art has never been so fast, affordable, and publicly personable, thanks to Tumblr. According to Brad Troemel, viewing art on this platform can help us “gain a greater art-informed appreciation for worthy cultural relics long deemed non-art.”
Take Tim Bierbaum and John Miller. Their online “Baguette-Me-Nots” Tumblr blog series consistently pairs a vast array of comedians with baguettes in contemporary settings. While some might simply call this series a lowbrow photo fad parallel to “planking” or “breading cats,” others might compare it to something like Dada meets “cyber” street art– brilliantly funny, evoking nonsensical play, and showcased in an egalitarian manner: on a digital wall outside of the gallery system. After all, the word Dada might have been born from Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco’s constant usage of “da, da” meaning “yes, yes” in Romanian– a word comedians and improvisers know and love fondly.
Mike Simi is an artist whose sculptures seem almost more like jokes than they do “art” (in a good way). Every one of them is funny, playful, and but also informed, like the products of an MFA student tired of everyone around taking art way too seriously, whose peers then applaud his efforts at subverting their academic approaches.
Michelle Alexis Newman’s Open Mic project combines two of my favorite things, Art & comedy. Here is a breakdown of the project in the Michelle’s own words:
“This is an ongoing project, inspired by the process it takes to create a joke. The Open Mic is a series of photographic portraits of Seattle based male comedians combined with one of their “best/worst” jokes.Open mic at a comedy club is a venue for comedians to step on to the stage and try out new material in front of an audience.
It is open to beginners and seasoned performers and unlike other visual and performing artists, who can hideaway while they develop their skills, the art of making someone laugh can only be practiced and developed in an utterly public arena. So whether there is a triumph or a train wreck, the audience is witness to all. ”
As part of their 2nd Annual Comedy Festival, Cinefamily recently invited Rich Fulcher to do a stand-up performance of his character “Eleanor, the Tour Whore.” Eleanor, a self-possessed, eccentric sailor-mouthed groupie was first introduced to audiences in Noel Fielding and Julian Baratt’s cult classic surreal comedy series, The Mighty Boosh. In the episode “Eels,” Eleanor hits on character Howard Moon with an affected cigarette wave, an exaggerated hello and a, ahem, vulgar come-on of wanting to pound him like yesterday’s beef.
The live show was more of the same sexually driven humor, delivered by kooky (and increasingly drunk) Eleanor. Set within the pretense of Eleanor reading excerpts from her latest “auto-biography,” Eleanor led us through her series of relationships with famous men, from her first unlikely conquest of “Colubmo” to her stint as Poison’s main backstage pass wielder. Indeed, her sexual liaisons, ranging from the outrageous to the disgusting defined the show. Interactive segments were also worked into the performance, including a video feature called “Taking the Mick,” interviewing famous “Micks” Eleanor has slept with. Of course, everyone from an impersonated Mick Jagger (who spent the entire time pouting his lips and shaking his rooster-head) to “Mikos,” Elenaor’s estranged kebab-making ex-boyfriend made an appearance.
“The show,” Eleanor stated at the outset of the performance, “is like a relationship. By the end we’ll all be sobbing and asking for each other’s Coldplay CDs back.” Eleanor’s statement may well be true of her past relationships, but by the end of her live performance, she was greeted by a standing ovation and electric cheers by a delighted audience. Cinefamily will be presenting their Comedy Fest through the end of June- a not-to-be-missed event.