“It’s not a joke!” Cover Image

“It’s not a joke!”
“It’s not a joke!”

Bio-art and the aesthetics of humour

Author(s): Isabel De Sena Cortabitarte
Subject(s): Theatre, Dance, Performing Arts, Fine Arts / Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Sociology of Art
Published by: Krakowskie Towarzystwo Popularyzowania Wiedzy o Komunikacji Językowej Tertium
Keywords: aesthetic humour; Adam Zaretsky; bio-art;

Summary/Abstract: An analysis of the rhetoric and aesthetics of humour in Adam Zaretsky’s oeuvre will attest to bio-art’s capacity to open up a new critical space within the life sciences debate – one of the most pertinent and conflicted fields of polemic today. In this paper I assert that in bio-art, the use of humour as a rhetorical tool holds the potential to bring ambiguous, non-normative perspectives into ethical questions that arise from developments in the life sciences (that field concerned with the study of living organisms and the advancement of life-altering interventions, such as bio-engineering and genetic manipulation). Departing from Henri Bergson and Arthur Schopenhauer’s Incongruity Theories, as well as John Morreall’s Play Theory, I analyze the performative force of humour in the artistic practice of self-proclaimed mad scientist and misbehaving ethicist Adam Zaretsky. Through this case study I argue that the disengaged mode of engagement evoked by aesthetic humour – the kind of humour that is not instrumentalized for practical concerns, but rather of intrinsic value, inciting imagination, insight, and reflection in the person experiencing it – is crucial in allowing art to move beyond the more normative, rationalized moralism of academic discourse and embody multiple, or even paradoxical perspectives simultaneously.

  • Issue Year: 3/2015
  • Issue No: 2/3
  • Page Range: 50-61
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: English