Farah Al Qasimi, Natalie Baxter, Deborah Castillo, Kristina Davis, Dynasty Handbag,
Jesse Harrod, INNER COURSE (Rya Kleinpeter and Tora López),
Lady Parts Justice League’s Vagical Mystery Tour, Jen Liu, Rachel Mason, Jan Mun,
Luis Mejico, Madhini Nirmal, Kameelah Janan Rasheed,
Katherine Simóne Reynolds, Andréa Stanislav
On January 10, 2017, CODEPINK activist Desiree Fairooz was arrested and later convicted for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Senate confirmation hearing. As Senator Richard Shelby commended Sessions for his record of “treating all Americans equally under the law,” Fairooz let out a quick, sharp cackle before being escorted from the courtroom and arrested for “disorderly and disruptive” behavior.
Fairooz’s reflexive outburst is just one scenario conveying the transgressive potential of laughter to threaten authority, as power and control are briefly shifted and destabilized. In an increasingly tense political landscape, laughing is an everyday gesture capable of unsettling norms, subverting power, and challenging dominant systems. Laugh Backexamines the diverse cultural production of self-identifying women who engage the defiant possibilities of humor, satire, and the absurd as subversive tools for cultural change.
The artists in Laugh Back use humor to create a symbolic space for transformation in which structures of power and repression are recognized and confronted. Focusing specifically on the practices of self-identifying women, the exhibition reframes the trope of humorless feminist resistance by emphasizing deployments of the absurd that disrupt presumed stable discourses. The works in the exhibition speak directly to the contemporary sociopolitical climate, examining race, gender, labor, and politics from multicultural perspectives to uncover a current, uniquely feminist brand of humor that is an increasingly threatened and threatening vehicle to speak truth to power. Employing diverse comedic genres, these artists use humor as a means to upset, if only for a visceral moment, established ways of being.