“Terminal Jest,” a 13-artist exhibit at Delaware County Community College, is all about dark humor and social commentary. Luckily, there’s nothing preachy about the work here.
Of course, one of dark humor’s best ploys is parody. Nearly half the work here is video parody, the darkest (and one of the best) being Erica Eyres’ “Playing Dead.” In a 4.5-minute faux documentary, a young woman explains her life project—which is faking her own suicide. The YouTube-like video shows the woman up close as she explains how she wishes to experience suicide without actually doing it. (Kudos to the makeup artist for the highly convincing blood in the bathtub and for the scary, Play-Doh-like scars on the young lady’s wrists.) This is a wonderful piece, both tragic and comic.
Not tragic but plenty funny is Jillian McDonald’s “Incident at the Pool,” a five-minute video that features a group of murderous potted cacti and a lone sunbather. It’s a sweet piece that nods to horror movies, but, with its zany slapstick antics, has more in common with the early silent films. Also borrowing from Hollywood, Liz Magic Laser’s and Dafna Maimon’s 15-minute “Service” shows a spaghetti dinner party where diners’ only means of communicating is with lines from disaster movies. The piece is a little long, but well-acted and gripping. There’s something about the way the stone-faced guests are chewing and slurping it all up like a table full of sheep.
With plot to burn, Guy Richards Smit’s video series, “Grossmalerman,” is a send-up of a fictional artist and his fictional New York gallery. The delusional but successful artist, manipulative dealer and smart female gallery assistants are all stock types. The most interesting character is Neil, a Joseph Beuys-ian friend of the artist who is hiding from the police in Central Park and living on raw squirrel and pigeon. For someone not attuned to the cynical, art insider’s world view, “Grossmalerman” would be a fun new take on things. But skewering the art world is not new.
Julien Bismuth’s video, “Dead Air Comedy,” is neither dark nor light but is definitely the most difficult piece to get through in the show: Its 46-minute length and its subject—language—is a little dry. Basically, a stand-up comedian tells really lame jokes, which he sometimes fobs in delivery (a joke about a lesbian, whose punchline is eucalyptus bush is particularly cringe-worthy). This too-long-for-gallery-viewing video should have screened in a theater preceded by an introduction and followed by a Q&A. First question, why does it need to be so long?
Of the nonvideo works, Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala’s “Dumpster Coffin” is the best, both for its complex message about throw-away people but also for its wonderful sculptural presence, all rusty on the outside and padded pink satin on the inside. The piece’s location, near a window in an L-shaped hallway, makes it all the more poignant for being almost overlooked in the noisy flow of people moving between classes.
And then there’s that one work that tends to rub people the wrong way. Here, placed outside the gallery in several public locations are lithographs by George Horner that read “Satan is happy with your progress.” Most were ripped up, spat on or stolen. But the show goes on, reparations will be made to Horner and dark humor will continue to do what it does best: Provoke.
Through April 27. STEM Center, Art Gallery, Delaware County Community College, 901 S.Media Line Road, Media. webarchive.dccc.edu/gallery