Workshop. Madeleine Bernstorff – The Power of Laugh. Strategic Disfunctionalities. February 1. – 3. 2017

The Power of Laugh. Strategic Disfunctionalities    

Workshop February 1. – 3.2017

In his foundational essays „Laughter. An essay on the meaning of the comic“ (Paris 1900, english edition 1914) philosopher Henri Bergson describes the comical as a sheer utterance of liveliness, with humor (often via objects) as a force connecting mental processes with social situations. At it’s best the comical criticises functionalisations and alienations. Humor can trivialise and mock powerrelations and normativities.

Strategic disfunctionalities and abrupt ruptures of authorities are to be found in the corporealities of early cinema’s comical scenes as in contemporary art. The small performance-oriented filmform, the so-called number is especially apt for expressions of the comical. Slapstick for example can be defined as rythmically fragmented forced comic with strong corporealities. It is opposed to the linearity of narration and plot, dwelling on the spectacle of the gag. It is about appropriating space – spacially, verbally and with bodily gestures – which involves gender trouble and destruction. Immanent power relations and their strategic over-affirmations lead to the question: Who laughs about what, whom, why? There is often a complicity in laughter, the comic is a social activity. The parody, mockery and grotesque, farce and burlesque are some of the genres to elaborate on.

3 days. In this workshop we will read and watch and speak and present. in english.
Please read the text by Henri Bergson for our first meeting. Bring for the second day short examples, clips / spots / youtube / images of what you find funny to discuss it in the group. We will watch and speak about early cinema, some suffragette films, and some newer works. There are some more texts which we will read in a shared effort, in small groups.


Henri Bergson: Laughter. An essay on the meaning of the comic (1900/1914)

Claudia Benthien: Skin – on the cultural border between self and the world. (1999/2002) i will bring excerpts.


Siegmund Freud: Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905)

Giorgio Agamben : Notes on Gesture

Madeleine Bernstorff is a writer, filmprogrammer, cultural producer based in Berlin.

This workshop is in collaboration with the BFA Department


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