Balancing suffering with humor

After a longing to read it for many years, I finally dug into Stella Gibbons’ hilarious novel Cold Comfort Farm.  Yes, I was that person on the subway laughing to herself…

But really, the Starkadder horses are named Travail and Arsenic.  And witty Flora Poste changes all the Starkadder lives with good cheer and a dose of pragmatism.

Turned out to be the theme of the day.

Chris Burden tortured his body in the name of art, notorious in the 1970s for setting himself up to be shot in the arm and slithering naked over broken glass.  Well, he lived, and like most of us, he grew up, tempering the way he expressed struggle in his newer sculptural pieces.

I hadn’t really wanted to see the show at the New Museum, but I am in a Body Art class.  What I couldn’t anticipate is the humor in his work.  He erects a beautiful bridge with an erector set 2013-11-30 12.03.49(memories of my childhood that makes me want to see the new, erector set exhibit at the Eli Whitney museum in New Haven even more).  Then he points a cannon at it.  Creation and destruction.  And humor.

Even his 1981 Tale of Two Cities, destroying each other through war, has a wink in it–it’s a whole world made of miniatures and toys.  The binoculars posted nearby will help you see it better.  Burden and his team took three weeks to install it in the gallery.  Talk about suffering!

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My favorite is his 2013 work Porsche with Meteorite.  If you saw that title on a novel, wouldn’t 2013-11-30 11.55.57you want to read it?  As you can see, it’s enormous and playful, as if alluding to some vast teeter-totter or the Scale of Justice belonging to the gods.  It’s not as absurd as Big Wheel from 1979, which serves no functional purpose, despite appearances.  But that, you argue, is art!  Yes!


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Here’s a youtube video of how the Big Wheel gets going:

I appreciate anything that makes me laugh, so I forced myself to see Becoming Dr. Ruth.  I’m basically neutral about her, but her life is a celebration of choosing joy over suffering.  And the one-woman show about her life demonstrates just that.

Perhaps the ‘wisdom’ that comes with age is knowing that suffering is part of life.  The phrase Tikkun olam means ‘repair the world’.  That call is one of the ways I identify with being Jewish.  The way to repair the world for Dr. Ruth is through sex.  For me, it’s laughter.  Let’s do it!