RadicalXChange 2020
Panel: The Absurd as a Radical Space for Social Inquiry
June 20,  11:00-11:50am EST
Logos Stage


The Absurd as a Radical Space for Social Inquiry
Moderated by Dr. Katherine Guinness

The absurd is an expression of a feeling, and not a philosophy, although it points at problems in longstanding belief structures that no longer apply in the new world. While absurdism does not provide answers or solutions or hope, it is not a philosophy of inaction by any means. Absurdist acts offer experiences that provoke, that speculate, that undermine known values and authorities, that point and prod to keep momentum going. Artists are in a privileged position outside disciplinary borders in their ability to engage the absurd as a means of questioning and prodding contemporary social practices and beliefs. In this panel, Carla Gannis, Foreground Design Agency, Janks Archive, and Adam Zaretsky discuss how they adopt the absurd to pry apart static ways of thinking about climate change, urban spaces, artificial intelligence, genetics, gender, among others disciplinary categories.

The panel will start with a very brief presentation of a project from each artist selected as appropriate reference points for the topic. The conversation will then be moderated to focus on their different approaches to the absurd, the spaces they were interested in investigating or interrogating, and where they are headed now as a result of that project.

Janks Archive is a collective research project which investigates traditions of insult humor in cultures from around the world. This multifaceted study documents this tradition through field recording, and presents the collection through an online archive, public events, exhibitions, publications, and a podcast. Since 2012 they have travelled to 16 cities in 9 countries, talking to residents, and learning about local variations of this type of humor. Janks Archive was founded in 2012 by artists Jerstin Crosby (1979, USA), Ben Kinsley (1982, USA), and Jessica Langley (1981, USA). They have presented this ongoing project internationally through exhibitions and screenings at venues such as Kallio Kunsthalle Taidehalli, Helsinki; Catalyst Arts, Belfast; La Galería de Comercio, Mexico City; Miller Gallery, Pittsburgh; Queens Museum, New York; POST Gallery, Kaunas; Kaņepes Kultūras centra, Riga; Askeaton Contemporary Art, Ireland; Sexyland, Amsterdam; and Lump Projects, Raleigh. They have been artists-in-residence at Platform in Vaasa, Finland and The Luminary Center for the Arts in St. Louis and featured on NPR Weekend Edition, Surprisingly Awesome podcast, Yale University Radio, Hyperallergic podcast, and YLE Radio Vega among others. The Janks Archive team also produces a podcast titled Don’t Spit, Can’t Swim which can be found on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.