The exhibition “Slapstick – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy etc. ‘meet’ Bruce Nauman, John Bock, Francis Alÿs etc.” in the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (22.06.2013 – 03.11.2013) shows works by contemporary artists in the context of silent slapstick movies from the early history of cinema, tracing in the process the characteristics of slapstick in the art of the present day. Objects, installations, photographs and films by such artists as John Bock, Rodney Graham, Wilfredo Prieto, Erwin Wurm, Fischli/Weiss, Bruce Nauman and Francis Alÿs are combined in a leisurely exhibition parcours with selected key sequences from famous silent movie classics by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd or Laurel & Hardy.
The “slap stick” was originally a simple theatrical prop, a club-like object that made a loud smacking sound, and the name for the whole genre developed from it. The history of slapstick comedy can be followed from the Italian Comedia dell’arte and vaudeville to the early slapstick movies of the 20th century. The pitfalls of the banana peel, pie fights, brawls and chase scenes, but also the large and small vagaries of everyday life and the battle between man and machine have formed the basis for famous slapstick routines. Artists have long been on the heels of the great comic masters and taken advantage of the cultural codes of slapstick. They made targeted use in their works in various media of slapstick quotations, motifs and concepts deriving from this genre.
Here is one of the finest films from the classic slapstick era:
Laurel & Hardy – The Flying Deuces (1939)
The boys join the Foreign Legion so Ollie can forget an unhappy romance. The usual complications ensue. Includes L&H singing and dancing to “Shine on Harvest Moon.”