Performa Film Program: Not Funny:

Performa Film Program: Not Funny: Piece to Camera

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$9 / $7 students/seniors / $6 AFA Members

In the seventies, several California-based artists began making minimalist videos of themselves performing humorous conceptual experiments. Whether through deadpan monologues (William Wegman), comic task-based structures (John Baldessari), absurd comments and confessions (Cynthia Maughan), or psychologically-charged role-playing (Eleanor Antin), all of these artists played in some way with the delivery style of stand-up. 

William Wegman
Various works
1970-78, approx. 15 min, video

John Baldessari
Baldessari Sings LeWitt
1972, 13 min, video

Cynthia Maughan
Scar/Scarf, Frozen and Buried Alive, Marzipan Pigs, Tamale Pie, Coffin from Toothpicks, Razor Necklace, Taking Medicine with Gloves On, The Way Underpants Really Are
1973-78, approx. 10 min, video

Eleanor Antin
The Little Match Girl Ballet
1975, 26 min, video


Curated by Lana Wilson. With special thanks to Josh Kline (EAI), Jed Rapfogel (Anthology), RoseLee Goldberg and Mark Beasley.

There are no advance sales for this event. Tickets may be purchased at Anthology Film Archives 30 minutes before showtime.

Part of the film series Not Funny: Stand-Up Comedy and Visual Artists.


About Not Funny

In the late 1960s, the one-liner style of conventional Borscht belt stand-up began to be supplanted by a radical new group of comics—performers who wrote their own material, often laced with daring social and political commentary, that  pushed the audience into uncharted territory, shaking up traditional ideas about what was funny, and about where entertainment ended and life began. Inspired by the provocative performances of Lenny Bruce, this new wave of comedians in the 1970s—including Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman—shocked audiences with everything from obscenity, to brutal personal confession, to performance art-inspired antics that left some wondering what the joke was about. Even so, they gained enormous popular followings.

At the same time, another revolution was occurring in visual art, as performance and conceptual art began to gain traction and the first consumer video cameras made it possible for artists to record themselves, often in reaction to what they saw on television, sometimes delivering deadpan routines that felt like a deconstructed version of stand-up. Some artists, such as Michael Smith, moved towards crossing over from the visual art context into the comedy world, while others, like Eric Bogosian, trained as an actor, planted the “comedy routine” firmly in the art world, with late night stands at The Mudd Club, Artists Space, and The Kitchen.

Now, at a time when the internet has led to an explosion of stand-up comedy websites and video channels, this crossover between the art world and mainstream entertainment is once again more relevant than ever. Presented by the New York performance biennial Performa 11 in conjunction with a live contemporary comedy series called Performa Ha!, Not Funny will look at some of the key works produced during this remarkable era, both in the stand-up scene and the art world, and at the artists and comedians who are still influenced by this material today.

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