Puns are like shapes that give meaning and move the viewer through the world, giving the world sense, creating a connectivity to life and a conversation with the spectator; ie: the use of puns in Duchamp’s artwork: the urinal-readymade Fountain 1917, signed R. Mutt, performs as an aesthetic jolt and as a pun – a play of image and text.
Using Duchamp’s words of 1934 on his art-puns, they are “not a commodity but an encounter”. Duchamp’s urinal-artwork is what Andre Breton characterised as “the lightning bolt, of the unsettling comic”. One can never go to the toilet again without pissing oneself with laughter.
In the past few years I have been working as an archaeologist’s research assistant and archaeology has opened up visual possibilities in my art practice. Archaeology like all archives tells us about the past, and the past echo’s questions about existence: ‘what is the question asked when holding a broken Bronze Age ceramic’ ? Does it not ask the same question as Shakespeare’s Hamlet asks when holding Yorick’s skull (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1). My practice is investigating the use of visual puns, parody, pathos and slapstick images to analyse, comment on, and express mans difficulty with existence: and (that knock, knock, knock on the door) Death. By making jokes we are as Freud said “making sense of nonsense”.
Archaeology is the archive of human behaviour, art is the archive of human thought made visible, humour is the tools to open these archives.