Humour is a form that has always found a particular echo in art and that resonates even more strongly in contemporary art. Comedy–whether it involves mockery or parody–gives us permission to laugh, but our laughter can make us uncomfortable and uneasy. Indeed, artists use humour in such an ambivalent way that, with some works, we often do not know whether we are laughing at ourselves or at others, whether to laugh out loud or chuckle quietly to ourselves. They test our limits, but they also assert their solidarity by making fun of certain political subjects.

In this symposium on the matter of humour, the Musée will probe the ways it is manifested and how it is handled by artists, since demonstrating a sense of humour in today’s world has without a doubt become a necessary attitude. Its omnipresence in the sphere of contemporary art will be the focus of the symposium Sans blague / No Joke. We will closely examine artistic practices that mobilize the mechanisms of humour, and will shed light on new forms that have emerged recently, including experimental comedy, which falls somewhere between performance art and stand-up. We will also discuss what is happening in the social sciences, and in art history in particular, since humour has been established as a research topic and become a subject of interest shared by numerous curators, generating a host of group exhibitions over the past two decades.

Stand-up Comedy Evening at the MAC organised in collaboration with the École nationale de l’humour: Friday, April 1.

Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the École nationale de l’humour would like to express their gratitude to the Caisse de la Culture for its support.

Guest speakers

  • Anna Dezeuze
    Lecturer in Art History, École Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée
  • Mélanie Couture
    Comedian and graduate from the École nationale de l’humour
  • Julie Dufort
    Lecturer, École nationale de l’humour and PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, UQAM
  • Fred Dubé
    Comedian et graduate from the École nationale de l’humour
  • Casey Jane Ellison
  • Dominic Hardy
    Professor, Department of Art History, UQAM
  • Ruba Katrib
    Curator, SculptureCenter, New York
  • Miriam Katz
    Curator and contributor to Artforum
  • Michael Portnoy
  • Alain Vaillant
    Professor of French literature, Université Paris-Ouest and Director, Centre des sciences des littératures françaises
  • Gregory H. Williams
    Associate Professor and Director of Graduates Studies, History of Art and Architecture, Boston University