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Barbara Cleveland

The One Hour Laugh  2009

single-channel digital video, colour, sound

57:12 minutes

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with assistance of Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM, 2011

on display

About the Artwork

In One Hour Laugh, Barbara Cleveland Institute (formerly Brown Council) – a Sydney-based collaboration of four artists – stand before a video camera and laugh continuously for one hour. Over the course of the hour their laughter moves from genuine hilarity to embarrassment, strain and boredom, becoming forced and faked. The work is part of a practice of live-art performances and collaborations and draws on ideas about spectacle and physical endurance to investigate what it is to perform, and how live performances are documented.

Dressed in homemade costumes, their dunces hats, paper bibs and fake eyebrows enhance the absurdity of their performance, recalling the anarchic theatrics of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 and the subversive comedy of Groucho Marx. Forcing themselves to laugh for the entire tedium of an hour creates an element of excruciation that situates the work within the lineage of performance art and acts of endurance like those of Marina Abramovic and Ulay.

in the 1970s and 80s. But in choosing laughter as their action, and in appearing to enjoy themselves in the process, BC Institute parody the seriousness and austerity of much performance art and its po-faced documentation.

We reclaim, embody and tear apart images, sounds and actions from visual culture to interrogate how it is that we should ‘perform’.

Barbara Cleveland Institute (formerly Brown Council), 2010

Barbara Cleveland

– About the artist

Frances Barrett, born 1983, Sydney. Lives and works Sydney.
Kate Blackmore, born 1982, Adelaide. Lives and works Sydney.
Kelly Doley, born 1984, Sydney. Lives and works Sydney.
Diana Smith, born 1981, Sydney. Lives and works Sydney.

Barbara Cleveland Institute (formerly Brown Council) is the collaborative practice of Sydney-based artists Frances Barrett, Kate Blackmore, Kelly Doley and Diana Smith, graduates of UNSW Art & Design, who have worked together since 2007. Spanning gallery and stage, and blurring distinctions between high and popular culture, the collective’s practice draws on the legacies of both the visual and performing arts, with influences as diverse as street theatre, amateur magic, vaudeville, stand-up comedy and the sideshow. Their work develops from processes of discussion and exchange, the artists meeting regularly to explore ideas and formulate provocations designed to inspire new work.

The One Hour Laugh was included in the first presentation of Volume One: MCA Collection at the MCA, Sydney. Barbara Cleveland Institute was featured in Primavera 2011, the MCA’s annual exhibition of emerging artists aged under 35. Two of their works were included in the MCA touring exhibition Tell me tell me: Australian and Korean Art 1976–2011 in 2011.

BC Institute’s recent projects include the 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016), Art as a Verb, Artspace, Sydney (2015); Performance Presence/Video Time, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide (2015); Video: Identity, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney (2014); Trace: Performance and its Documents, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2014); Performance Art (15 Actions for the Face), Jackson Bella Room Commission, MCA, Sydney (2014); Going Down, International Studio & Curatorial Program, New York (2013); You’re History, Performance Space, Sydney (2013); Backflip, Margaret Laurence Gallery, Melbourne (2013); Contemporary Australia: Women, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2012); and This Is Performance, Artspace, Sydney (2012). Their work is held in collections including Campbelltown Arts Centre, NSW and Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

Learn more
– Other collection works by the artist

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