After yesterday’s Renaissance GIFs post, which featured the work of James Kerr, our readers alerted us to two other curious projects that remix Old Master paintings.
One is a sketch by the Jungleboys for Australia’s ABC1 television channel, while the other is a surreal and demented walk through Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights for Odonis Odonis’s song “Order in the Court” (Buzz Records), directed by Lee Stringle.
While the Odonis Odonis video is mesmerizing (I suggest you turn down the volume, unless you’re into loud industrial punk), the Jungleboys sketch gets to the core of our fascination with Old and Modern Masters.
Comedy is about overturning power structures and hierarchies, irreverence in the face of authority, and nothing is more sacred or authoritative in Western art history as the work of the Masters. Imagining the dark and comedic impulses of the figures in these paintings momentarily robs them of their power, only to reassert their role as powerful objects in our collective imagination once the joke is done. Effective comedy comes from the outside looking in, the trickster usurping the throne. Contrasts and surprises are staples of comedy, but so is timing. A joke dissected is no longer funny. To dismantle a joke all you have to do is explain it.
Writing in On Humour, Simon Critchley observes that humor “reveals the depths of what we share,” and returns us to common sense after it exposes us to a paradox whether in the form of speech or action. Humor, he says, “is practically enacted theory. I think this is why Wittgenstein once said that he could imagine a book of philosophy that would be written entirely in the form of jokes.” Now, that would be funny.