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Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 09:57 am
7 days, 7 jokes

A Spoken Word Exhibition at New York's Swiss Institute ends today -- though the Performa Biennial it's part of continues -- so I've just emailed the gallery staff the last of the seven Bob Newart jokes they're being asked to whisper to visitors. Here's the complete set. As happens in Chinese Whispers-type games, these jokes sometimes got garbled in the telling (and they were garbled enough to begin with!). A spy I sent to the gallery told me, for instance, that the three bulls in Friday's joke became, for her, three bows. Mistakes are a way of generating the new... or sometimes just uneasy laughter.



Thursday November 1st
A man walked into a doctor's waiting room and the room blew down. "I thought you were a waiter", said the man. "I lost patients," said the room.

Friday November 2nd
There were three bulls, legging it across a field. One of them was a green bull, one of them a blue bull, and the other had to look in the mirror.

Saturday November 3rd
A mutilator was humiliating in a haystack. "Stop!" cried the resultant children.

Sunday November 4th
A king walked into a McDonalds. "Give me two women," he said to the man behind the counter. "Keep your voice down," said the man, "I'm scared too".

Monday November 5th
"Who's that seedy comedian -- the one who takes his clothes off in the gallery?"
"Acconci?"
"No, Bob Newart."

Tuesday November 6th
There were three black dwarves who lived in a tall white cylindrical house on the cliffs. One stormy night an icy winter gale whipped up and howled. The three dwarves climbed the spiral staircase to bed and switched off the light. Next morning, several hundred bodies were found on the beach. They were lighthouse keepers.

Wednesday November 7th
An English, an Irish and a Scottish pussy cat were asked their favourite prey. "Dumplings," said the Irishman.

41CommentReplyFlag

cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 09:39 am (UTC)

I like the first one. The rest kind of lost me. Was the 4th joke supposed to be entirely non sequitor?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 09:49 am (UTC)

The fourth joke was written by a machine, a joke program as imperfect as, say, Japanese-English machine translation currently is. That's what interests me about it, its failure to pass the comedy Turing Test. The machine has a template which has requirements for two characters, a location, and two lines of dialogue. The rest is random. Sometimes it produces something funny, sometimes something odd. In this case, it almost produced a Kafka short story.


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alvaroceb
alvaroceb
alvaroceb
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)

«le rire […] est au bord du néant», quoted from Breton's "Anthologie de l'humour noir", quoted from P. Piobb's "Les mystères des Dieux". I'm looking forward to read your novel, though I already read the first pages / chapters you linked here some weeks / months ago and I didn't unterstand a word. Even if (I guess), for almost any existing joke, there could be found structural equivalents in different cultures, the humour in your novel seemed to me very much rooted in a linguistic and geographic environment —I guess, again, English. To me it looked more absurd than it probably should.


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rhodri
rhodri
Rhodri Marsden
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 10:48 am (UTC)

I'd like to see these told at Brixton Comedy Club. *Shiver*


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 10:51 am (UTC)

Well, the whole point of Bob Newart is that he dies for us. Like Jesus, but onstage.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 11:44 am (UTC)

As a blogger, you can be insightful and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, as an artist, you come across as some awful parody from a mediocre comic novel from the mid-seventies.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 12:00 pm (UTC)

The thing is, you can judge a blog on the internet. This is it, this is the blog, it exists here. My art practice can only be experienced in the gallery. If you get a bad impression of it, perhaps the problem is simply that art cannot be squeezed into the format of a blog.

Sure, here on your computer screen it might seem like bad conceptual art, but it's actually rather good performance art. At my Zach Feuer show in 2005 and the Whitney performance in 2006, magic really was in the air (some days more than others, I admit, and probably the Feuer show more than at the Whitney). I'd be happy to admit if it had been terrible (like my AIGA lecture). But it wasn't, it was actually rather brilliant. But you really had to be there.

The internet is the world's worst forum for art and, I'd say, getting worse every day, as art deliberately distinguishes itself from the digital -- that's one of the things it's for now. Not-being-the-internet.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 11:49 am (UTC)

"It was over before it even began"


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 11:51 am (UTC)

Isn't this just a really tired version of Tino Sehgal (who is himself beginning to near the self-parodic)?

Sam


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)

It's definitely got something in common with Sehgal's work, which I think is good and not self-parodic. It's funny, whenever anyone starts a new genre (and here I mean women artists like Andrea Fraser and Janet Cardiff, who really started this 20 years ago) there's a tendency to focus on the validity of the genre rather than the work being done within it. Later, when enough work in the genre has accumulated, the focus shifts to what makes each piece more or less interesting or original.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 11:55 am (UTC)

Momus, can you explain the thinking and the theory behind your Bob Newart character? So far I get that he's supposed to be an unfunny comedian, but why? Is he some sort of parody of the art scene as well? Or a parody of the idea of parody? Or what? Are you exploring the idea of the uncanny?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 12:09 pm (UTC)

He comes out of what happened during my last two major shows, the Zach Feuer one in 2005 (making up stories from scratch daily in the gallery) and the Unreliable Tour Guide at the Whitney. As those three months at the Whitney went on, I found the character of Bob Newart, a comedian, emerging from somewhere inside me and taking over the tours. I decided to "give him his own show". That show still hasn't happened -- I was originally going to appear at Performa as Bob Newart, in person. But what eventually happened was this phoned-in version, which is really a kind of pre-publicity for the real Bob Newart Show: a kind of John the Baptist to his dying-for-us-onstage Christ.


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atarashi
atarashi
atarashi
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)

i'm not sure whether these bob newart jokes are meant to be deliberately unfunny nonsensical ones. are they supposed to be? because i actually find that some of them make sense and are quite funny.


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alvaroceb
alvaroceb
alvaroceb
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)

To me, this Bob Newart dying thing sounds like a sadomasochistic version of Klaus Kinski's "Jesus Erlöser"! Uooooo!


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)

Of all your efforts in the various media - blogging, journalism, music, etc. - I have to say I find your forays into the art world the least compelling. Your upthread commentary on the genesis and meaning of the Bob Newart project actually sound more interesting than the project itself. There's a disconnect there somewhere. I have a feeling that at heart you're a "tell not show" kind of guy. Or perhaps it's your obvious desperation to be part of the art world that's part of the problem. Some people work better in a medium they're a little bit alienated from.

L.M.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)

Failed musicians should be wary of hope of recuperation in the art world. The practice of fine art needs to be nurtured, looks easy to the non participants but as you have found Momus conceptualist rhetoric borrowed from the internet can not cover up mundane ideas and barely sublimated technique.
There is a cynical pointlessness (sameness)and not absurdity that you seem to court in wanting to embarass yourself in an age of narcissistic no shame.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)

these jokes remind me of jack spicer the poet, bits of him can be downloaded from here: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Spicer.html
I recommend "the holy grail" for starters

with these jokes and spicer's work, you always have material for arguing for his high seriousness or mundane jokiness, and are always aware he seriously and jokingly meant both.

It would be fun to wander ignorant into a commonplace gallery, enjoy the pictures, and then have a joke whispered upon you.

I think the mcdonald one is best, but I don't know why

- from matthew


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)

A spy I sent to the gallery told me, for instance, that the three bulls in Friday's joke became, for her, three bows.

I visited the gallery on Saturday. They told me the wrong joke!

The Spy


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)

I sent the joke late a couple of days, that may have been my fault!


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kevisannasdad
kevisannasdad
kevisannasdad
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)
The best kind of jokes

I laughed at each. I didn't make any sense out of them and I don't want to. A joke is full of surprises and the non-sense in each of yours is always surprising. I would laugh even more if they were whispered to me, out of two types of embarrassment (touched by a stranger and being confused) and the above stated joy of surprise.

The most fun part is feeling my mind trying to make sense out of something that is said with the right pace, the spacing and wording to reveal something, but knowing that there is nothing to get to. To really enjoy the initial surprise of non-sense, you have to admit defeat. That there is no connection to be made and nothing further to be gained for greater effort.

I could read 101 of those and still laugh. After that, I would probably need something to eat or drink. Maybe both.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
Re: The best kind of jokes

A stiff glass of egg, perhaps?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)

Reading the comments I think the problem of posting things here is there is no context for the piece to work and it sounds disembodied. The gallery space and the interaction with the staff will add a lot to the experience and enstrangement. Real jokes sometimes can be cryptic or unfunny precisely because they are structured around a punchline and often I think the laughter is hollow or mannered due to one's reception of the payoff. It is a no different here except that the joke is in the ear of the beholder.

Having said that I do feel that had you performed and created these on the spot then it would have been much stronger piece. Having attending the Zach Fuer show, the thing that made it work was witnessing the stream of consciousness approach of the work happening on the spot. The hits and the misses of that approach made it more interesting then something planned in advance. Perhasp in the case of the Swiss Institute piece the work has been somewhat diluted by the non-appearance of Bob Newart. Still thanks for letting us eavesdrop,

Richard


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snosage
snosage
exploding plastik snosage
Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)

Are you familiar with Neil Hamburger?


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