Adam Spencer

The Animal Wrests the Whip from its Master and Whips itself in order to become Master, 2017

HOW CAN CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE THAT UTILISE HUMOUR AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE JOKE ENGAGE WITH EXISTENTIAL THEMES?

The Animal Wrests the Whip from its Master and Whips itself in order to become Master’ is a collection of Sisyphean acts conveying the futility of searching for the meaning of life, a philosophical quest for knowledge that is seemingly bound to fail. This work utilises humour to interrogate the nature of existence through three absurd performances in which the camera is the only witness to the live event.

I have read Edmund Burke’s ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful’ to a sunset, shown Sartre’s ‘Existentialism and Humanism’ to a flying fish and discussed the concept of time with a waterfall. As the process of searching is my own, and therefore the meaning I find is my own, the audience is not given access to the spoken conversation. The absurd nature of the act is heightened when one considers that the natural landscapes are the only recipients of my dialogue.

In my research, I explore contemporary art that utilises humour and the structure of the joke to provoke discussion around existential ideas. I have contextualised my project by investigating the works of artists Bruce Nauman, Erwin Wurm and William Wegman, Hennessy Youngman and Ragnar Kjartansson. These artists perform similar absurd acts and document their inability to solve unanswerable questions that are fundamental to existence. My theoretical understanding is augmented by the writings on humour and failure of Simon Critchley, Henri Bergson, Heather Diack, and Lisa Le Feuvre.

Image List

Explaining Time to a Waterfall2017
Video (still)
10 minute 35 second looped video

Form#2, 2017
Silver Gelatin
60.5 x 50 cm
Ed 3 + 1 AP

Explaining Beauty to a Sunset, 2017
Video (still)
8 minute 44 second looped video
N.B. Installation view

Explaining Existentialism to a Flying Fish
2017
Video (still)
9 minute 10 second looped video