The Art of Laughter

September 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

(I loved this installation I went to recently, and thought about writing a review for it, except I don’t know the first thing about writing Art reviews. Well, here goes nothing.)
I don’t think there’s anything more fulfilling than being in a room full of laughter. Not the horrific “laughter club” version, which often sounds like something between a pack of hyenas and victims of a medieval torture device. What I’m talking about is unbridled laughter, something that results from pure joy, absolutely unabashed and free from restraint or embarrassment or judgement. There’s a point at which laughter is hesitant and controlled in deference to propriety, as I was reminded of once by a teacher who reprimanded me for laughing loudly, saying that “women should be seen and not heard”. I learnt that you can maintain that propriety for a while, but beyond that point, laughter is all that there is – you sometimes forget why you are laughing in the first place, and even if you don’t understand what everyone’s laughing at, it is so infectious that you just cannot help yourself.
Lafeteria, which can best be described as an Installation, conceptualized and executed by Aravind Murali and Jaishankar Iyer, is an actual tribute to laughter as it really and truly should be. If you are based in Chennai, it’s up at the Ashvita Art Gallery and there will hopefully be similar installations in other cities as well. There’s nothing much to see unless you truly fancy reading an endless trail of letters climbing up walls and stairs. The letters are the common representations of the comedic – “ha ha”, “he he” and the like. But that’s about it – and rightly so, because the plain surroundings let you just concentrate on what this really is all about – the laughter.
You could possibly try identifying all the forms of laughter that these guys have managed to capture and edit and sting together – there are chuckles and giggles and guffaws and snorts and gasps and there are points at which the loud cracking up trails off…only to be rekindled again with a vengeance. There is nothing forced about the sounds you hear, and therefore there is no monotony. It’s candid laughter, and not canned. If you want to, you can lean back and try and identify each voice for the age, gender and temperament of the person it belongs to. Or you could just sit in wonder about what is it they are laughing about. But what you should do is just sit, and enjoy laughter for laughter’s sake, different voices and reactions hitting you from different angles. Sprawl on the floor, grab a bean bag, a sofa chair – and just be.
This is a work of Art, and Art impacts different people in different ways. As I walked down the stairs listening to these sounds of what can only be described as absolute joy, I remembered evenings with my Father, the funniest man I will ever know, where he would go on and on with his narratives, feeding off our laughter, encouraged by our holding our waists and begging him to stop, while he would up the ante and all of us at home would be torn between rushing to the bathroom and sitting on lest we miss anything even more hilarious.
For me, my life’s most memorable moments have been those where I just could not stop laughing. And that is where Lafeteria took me.
P.S: Yes, I have moved to Chennai. This is a long story that I will probably never post on this blog. So use your imagination.
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