All of a sudden, the city seems to be waking up. There’s lots of good stuff happening now, or soon – so make space in your diaries. Especially for the next show at the Bluecoat. Double Act: Art and Comedy is one of those curious ideas that makes you wonder – why has no-one looked at this before?

Curated by artists David Campbell and Mark Durden, founding members of the artists’ group Common Culture and studio holders at Bluecoat, the exhibition and series of events looks at the intersection of humour and art. What intersection? Well, sure, there are some retrospectives (cough Hirst)that make you think: are you having a laugh? But Double Act takes a more forensic approach. Within, 16 artists have been asked to ruminate on just what humour brings to the often po-faced world of contemporary art. From cheap laughs to rarefied wit, they’ve found the funny bone in the most surprising of places. And, coming from a city that loves to put knickers and hula skirts on Crosby’s Gormleys, we’re not afraid of laughing in the face of conceptual art. And long may that continue.

Maurice Doherty’s neon sign spells out the phrase ‘I slept with the curator to get this show’, using humour to undermine the assumed impartialities that lie behind curators’ choices to show some artists rather than others. Gemma Marmalade’s photographs from her 2015 Seed Series (Green-Fingered), which give a new twist to the well-used joke of funny-looking vegetables by suggesting a relationship between female gardeners’ sexuality and the size of their crop. Oo-er, missus. Etc.

“We’re fascinated with comedy because of its capacity to cut through the often pretentious and serious nature of art,” Campbell and Durden tell us. “Humour opens up new critical ways
of engaging with the world.”

“As part of our spring season of events Bluecoat is also extending the theme of comedy to other art forms beyond the visual,” says Marie-Anne McQuay, Head of Programme at Bluecoat. “We’re staging comedy from the Arab world, a symposium on physical theatre and readings by writers meditating on the darker side of humour.”

To explore its theme of duality, the exhibition will itself be a ‘double act’ and will take place at two venues; Bluecoat, Liverpool and The MAC, Belfast. Ok, as a duo, that’s not up there with Morecambe and Wise, but maybe they’ll have the last laugh…

Double Act: Art and Comedy
9 April – 19 June

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