Page 1

A man falls down the stairs


Adrien Moreillon A man falls down the stairs


Adrien Moreillon

A man falls down the stairs Studying the influence of graphic structure in humorous images.

Master of Arts in Design Zurich University of the Arts Kaffee K채se Press 2011


Master thesis in visual communication Master of Ar ts in Design Z端rich University of the Ar ts, 2011 Concept and Design Adrien Moreillon Tutors Rudolf Barmettler, David Skopec, Peter Vetter, Lisa Greuter, Sarah Owens Fonts Helvetica Neue LT Com Papers Rebello FSC, 90g Quatro Silk FSC, 115g Printing and binding Visiolink AG, Z端rich Acknowledgement I would like to thank my family for suppor ting me all the way through my studies. Fur thermore I would like to thank all the people that have contributed in one way or another to this publication. Finally, thank you to all the images that made me and my collegs laugh throughout these past years. Kaf fee K辰se Press Z端rich 2011 Adrien Moreillon


How does the graphic structure of a humorous image influence its effect ? In a world submerged with images, and in which humor has been proven to be an important part of communication, understanding the function of graphic structure in humorous images seems essential. Yet, little research has been done on the subject. This study approaches the subject with a specific interest in the correlation between the visual aspect of an image and the reality it represents. In this framework, the study concentrates more particularly on the case of humorous photography, a medium in which the graphic structure’s appearance is very near to the one of our own reality. What does this imply ? Is the impression of reality still relevant nowadays ? What happens when the graphic structure of a humorous photography is altered ? Can design contribute to a further development of this medium ? These questions are approached throughout the study by a series of experiments.


Their visual aspect is enough to give the feeling that the content of the image is intended to be humorous


8


Fragments

102


Many intellectuals have put forward the relation between humor and sufferance


12


Confronting reality

104


14


Confronting reality

104


In some situations, for example, humor can endorse the role of social corrector


18


Social corrector

104


20


Social corrector

104


Humor techniques are to humor what rhetorical figures are to language


24


Appropriation

106


26


Farce

106


28


Morphology

106


30


Pun

106


32


Satire

106


34


Situation

106


But what is it exactly in the solution of incongruity that makes us experience humor?


38


Incongruity

106


40


Superiority

106


42


Relief

106


In addition to getting the public’s attention and sympathy humor allows to create a certain amount of interactivity


46


Humor in adver tising

108


48


Humor in adver tising

108


50


Humor in adver tising

108


The receiver has the liberty of paying attention or not to the details


54


Displaying details

110


It is possible to create and exaggerate a visual incongruity so as to increase the ridiculous aspect of reality


58


Caricature

112


60


Analogical transposition

112


62


Montage drawing

112


The incongruity of the graphic structure can be seen as a way of enhancing the humorous content


66


Possible situations in which a photograph could be taken


70


Snapshot

124


72


Instant

124


74


Static

124


76


Staged

124


78


Montage

124


Examples show that the graphic structure of a photograph can very well be modified


82

Artwork from Jamie Reid for the Sex Pistols’ album God Save The Queen based on a Cecil Beaton photograph of Queen Elizabeth II.


Reinterpreting photography

124

Picture from Gordon Magnin’s photo exhibition 10:10


It is known that the reality represented in a photograph can be manipulated in order to communicate a chosen context


86

Stalin routinely air-brushed his enemies out of photographs. In this photograph a commissar was removed from the original photograph after falling out of favor with Stalin.


Photographic manipulations

132

In order to create a more heroic portrait of himself, Benito Mussolini had the horse handler removed from the original photograph.


88


Photographic manipulations

132


90


Photographic manipulations

132


Chapters

1 Graphic structure 2 Humor in society

13 19

3 Decomposing humor 4 Humor in Design 5 Visual Humor

25

33

37

6 An impression of reality 7 Graphic interventions 8 Discussing the topic

55

55

9 Breaking conventions

73

45


Chapter 1

Graphic structure Have you ever noticed that, in some cases, the visual aspect of an image is enough to give you an idea of the kind of content this image communicates ? This particularity seems to be recurrent in many styles of humorous drawings such as cartoon and caricature. When looking at fragments of these kinds of humorous drawings, the visual elements contained in the fragments don’t give enough information to understand the exact subject matter of the image. However, their visual aspect is enough to give the feeling that the content of the image is intended to be humorous.  m e nts 10 –11

Frag-

We could compare this phenomenon to the way the

background music of a movie tends to indicate if the scene is going to be dramatic, frightening, funny or so on. One of the reasons we are able to anticipate the humorous content of these images is that, when decoding their graphic structure, we recognize some kind of visual code that we associate with humorous content. In other words, the design of the shapes and colors form a particular appearance that we spontaneously affiliate with humorous images.However, the relation between graphic structure and humor isn’t necessarily the result of these shapes and colors being funny in themselves. Although some studies work on demonstrating that shapes and colors can be associated to emotions, it seems the origins of these associations come from what we can call visual conventions. Indeed, the fact of systematically seeing a particular kind of graphic structure used in the framework of a specific field or context will make us associate the one to the other. This implies that the recognition of a visual code will only work in a group that has the same visual references. For example, in Western culture, the color red will easily be associated to prohibition or danger, and this probably due to our signage systems. So basically, the graphic structure of an image is an assemblage of shapes and colors. These are combined so as to create a whole that we recognize as the visual representation of an object or concept. If the image attempts to transcribe the aspect of an existing


96

object, this object will be referred to as the referent of the image. A yellow circle, for example, could be an attempt to transcribe the visual aspect of the sun. In semiotics, the result of the basic shapes and colors that form this image (in this example a yellow circle) is called the signifier, and the concept we associate this signifier to when seeing it (in this example the sun) is known as the signified.1 Semiotics goes even deeper and distinguishes different natures of signified. One is the denotative signified, which is the recognition of what the signifier “concretely” depicts. Another is the connotative signified, which is any other concept or meaning that result from social-cultural or personal associations. To use the example of the yellow circle representing the sun, the denotative signified would be the concept of sun whereas the connotative signified would be concepts associated to the sun such as summer, daylight or warmth. This connotative signified is what induces us to associate the fragments of humorous drawings to humorous content without decoding the exact subject matter of the image. In brief, the signified of the image will depend on the interpretation of the signifier. This means that in order for someone to understand the humorous content of an image, he must be able to recognize the different concepts implied by the graphic structure. We could describe the graphic structure as being the code through which the content of an image is communicated. Said in this way, it seems as if the latter was nothing more than a passive interface between the content of the image and the interpreter. Yet, this is not the case. When looking at a humorous image, the purpose of the graphic structure goes further than passively communicating the humorous content. For example, its visual appearance can have an influence on our appreciation of the content. The graphic structure could be described as the charisma of the image. In a way, it can be compared to the style of narration of a speech. In both cases, a good content can be spoiled or enhanced depending on the style with which it is communicated. Of course, the liking or disliking of a visual appearance is often a matter of personal taste. Nevertheless this demonstrates the influence of the graphic structure when decoding the content of a humorous image. But not only does the graphic structure have the capability of influencing our appreciation of an image, it also has the possibility of influencing the very statement of the image. The fact that the understanding of an image’s content involves the interpretation of the graphic structure makes it possible for the latter to influence the way the content will be understood. The simple fact of chang1 Peirce Charles, 1978. Écrits sur le signe. G. Deledalle (Collected and commented). Paris : Les Editions du Seuil.


Graphic structure

ing, adding or subtracting the shape, the color or the position of a graphic element can nuance the context of the image without changing its basic content. This phenomenon can be observed through a simple example. Let’s consider a situation frequently used in comedy: A man falls down the stairs. In order to keep the example as simple as possible, we will consider only the action of a man falling down the stairs without taking into account additional context such as the reason why he is on a staircase or what made him fall. If we were to communicate this humorous content through an image, the graphic elements would have to represent at the very least the concept of man and the concept of stairs. They must then be arranged so that the graphic structure of the image communicates the notion of the first element (the man) falling down the second element (the stairs). So what does a man falling down the stairs look like ? This is precisely where the graphic structure can act on the interpretation of the humorous content. Depending on the shape and position given to the graphic element representing the man falling, the statement of the image won’t be quite the same. Although the images communicate the exact same content with the same aesthetic, they don’t have the same impact. These examples show how the graphic structure can alter the interpretation and appreciation of an image’s content. We can therefore assume that the design of the graphic structure is an essential factor in the processing of a humorous image. It is however difficult to define which image makes the content funnier. The reason is that humor is different from one person to another. In order to understand this variability, it is necessary to familiarize with some notions of the phenomenon of humor.


98

Examples of how a man can fall down the stairs.


Graphic structure


Chapter 2

Humor in society Trying to define what makes something humorous is a delicate subject. When looking at the previous examples of men falling down the stairs, the opinions on weather the images are humorous or not and which ones are funnier than others will probably be very different from one person to the next. The reason for this is that the appreciation of humor is something personal. For instance, something seen as humorous by one person may be seen as boring, oafish or even hurtful by another. Not only is the appreciation different, the reaction can vary a lot as well. The expression of humor can go from an uncontrollable laugh to a smile to an inward node of respect.1 Considering these parameters, the appreciation of humor seems to depend only on an individual’s personal taste and character. Yet such parameters are partly determined by the environment in which we are raised. Indeed, factors like language, origins, traditions, social background or even age and sex can strongly influence our way of approaching a humorous content. 2 It is therefore not surprising that the difference of humor is not only noticeable on an individual level, but can also be put forward between groups. The difference of humor between individuals and groups can depend on various factors. But what is it exactly that makes it possible for people to appreciate or disparage one and the same humorous content ? In short, humor depends on common references. In order for individuals or groups to consider the same content as humorous, they must have a certain amount of identical references that make it possible for them to have the same approach and interpretation. In the same way as personal taste and character, common references will also depend on the environment in which we are raised. Cultural-related references will therefore have a strong influence on the way an individual or a group will approach a humorous content. Indeed, people with the same cultural background will usually be able to understand the idea behind a humorous content that involves mores or traditions related to the specific culture. Contrariwise, people that are not accus1 McAlhone B. & Stuar t D., 1995. A Smile In The Mind. London : Phaidon Press Ltd., p. 16

2 Kuipers Giselinde, 2006. Good Humor, Bad Taste, A sociology of the joke. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter.


102

tomed to the culture will maybe not be familiar with the notions the humorous content refers to in which case they will not see wherein the humor lies. For example, a joke involving the Swiss Röstigraben, 3 which is the name given to the separation between the German speaking part and the French speaking part of Switzerland, won’t necessarily be considered as humorous by a person who doesn’t understand the concept, who isn’t familiar with the situation or is not concerned by the subject. Another example that illustrates the importance of common references in humor is language. Let’s consider the following joke: C’est quoi un canif ? C’est un petit fien… A person that doesn’t understand French won’t be able to decode the content of the joke, which, a priori, implies that he will not be able to associate it to a humorous content. Of course, there is always the possibility for this person to experience humor in a parallel way. For example, he could find humor in the fact of not understanding what is going on, or, in the case where the joke is told out loud, because he finds the rhythm and melody of the specific language amusing. However, in such cases, the humor is of a different nature than the one intended by the person that told the joke. In some cases, a humorous content requiring a particular language referential goes beyond the simple fact of understanding the basic subject matter. Proof is if we translate a joke so as for it to be understood in another language, the humorous content doesn’t necessarily work the same. There can be various reasons for this. One example would be the case in which the essence of the joke comes from the specific sonorities of the words in the original language. Once translated, the sonority of these words won’t necessarily have the same humorous effect. If the appreciation of humor is based on common references, it seems essential to mention the importance of time in the foundation of these references. The notion of time is important to take into account because it involves the constant changing and evolution of our references. Mores, mentalities, cultures, technologies … everything changes and evolves over time. For instance, themes like sex or nudity that were considered as shocking and taboo in the past have almost become banal nowadays. Technologies that were once considered as relevant become obsolete over time. According to the epoch, references will not necessarily be the same. And since humor depends on these common references, it will also change and evolve over time. Therefore, the appreciation of humor varies with time. A content that was considered as humor3 Röstigraben is a humorous term describing the dividing line between the German-speaking and the French

speaking par ts of Switzerland with their respecitve cultural dif ferences.


Humor in society

ous in the past will not necessarily be seen as humorous today, and a content considered as humorous today will not necessarily be seen as humorous in the future. Of course, while some humorous subjects disappear over time because the topic is out of date, the emergence of new ideas, technologies or even problems constantly creates new sources of humor. The relevance of common references in the framework of humor also reveals the importance of context in the communication and interpretation of a humorous content. Indeed, if a humorous content is considered as so, it is because the context in which it was placed made it concord with the references, personal taste and expectation of the interpreters. In contrast, placing a humorous content in a wrong context will lead to problems such as the language not being understood, the notions not being familiar or the subject being considered as out of date or inappropriate. If the context isn’t right or if it is not understood, a humorous content, as good as it might be, has very little chance of attaining its goal. The difference of humor can be noticed between individuals as well as between small groups such as friends or family or even much bigger groups such as religions, societies, cultures or even countries. Humor will evolve with time and change according to context. All these factors make the very notion of humor seem chaotic. However, among all the variables that influence it, there seems to be one systematic about humor: it is everywhere. 4 It seems the fact of appreciating and expressing humor is common to all mankind. Present in various forms, humor is found in every culture and in every epoch. Indeed, if some humorous subjects are specific to language, culture or time, some seem almost universal. For instance, the fact of making fun of the authority has apparently been a recurrent subject in humor over time. In the Middle Ages people used to mock the monarchy, nowadays we do the same with our politics. The fact of making fun of minorities or of the ones that are different also seems to be a popular subject in humor and can be observed in many cultures. 5 The apparently universal presence of the phenomenon seems to indicate that humor plays an essential role among human beings. But what exactly is this role ? One of the most apparent purposes of humor is the expression of joy. Its presence regularly accompanies good news, festivities or friendly moments. However, behind its fun and playful facade, the role of humor is much more profound than the simple fact of celebrating life. Although the idea 4 Raskin Victor, 1985. Semantic Mechanisms of humor. Dordrecht : D. Reidel Publishing Company.

5 Powell Chris & Paton George, 1988. Resistance and Control. Hong Kong: The Macmillan Press LTD.


104

Humor as social corrector.

seems contradictory, many intellectuals have put forward the relation between humor and sufferance. Nietzsche, for example, states that man alone suffers so excruciatingly in the world that he was compelled to invent laughter. For Mark Twain the secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. 6 In a world in which life is often hard, humor constitutes a psychological support that helps confront the roughness of reality by underlining the latter’s ridiculous aspects. 

Confronting reality 12–15

Freud illustrates this concept with

a short story: A prisoner being led to execution on a Monday morning turns to the guard and says “What a way to start the week”. 7 Making a joke of his situation allows the prisoner to break away from the tragic experience he is facing. The situations in which humor brings support can be of different kinds. It can, for example, be a solution to restraining pain. In moments of physical or psychological sufferance, humor helps people put things into perspective and see the bright side of life. In the same way, humor can help relive people from stress and tensions. As it will be seen later on, the correlation between humor and reality represents an interesting parameter in the framework of humorous images. In addition to representing a support on an individual level, humor also has an important role in a group. In some situations, for example, humor can endorse the role of social corrector.  rector 15 –16

Social cor-

By highlighting the ridiculous aspects of our reality, hu-

mor can bring to light the absurdity of established systems, rules, 6 Harper Lee, 2010. Bloom’s Guides, To kill a mocking bird. New York : Infobase Publishing.

7 Lewis P., 1989. Comic ef fects: interdisciplinar y approaches to humor in literature. Albany: The State University of New York Press.


Humor in society

conventions and so on. 8 This example underlines an apparent presence of humor in the framework of social exchanges. According to the theorist of laughter Henri Bergson, humor needs an echo. 9 Indeed, it has been observed that people are more likely to react to humor when they are in groups than when they are alone.10 The reason for this is that humor is an efficient way of creating social bonds. When interacting with others, the use of humor gives an idea of the eventual compatibility between individuals. As it has been mentioned earlier, the appreciation of humor is influenced by culture, traditions, language, age and many other factors. Therefore, the fact of being able to laugh at the same humorous content often means that the concerned people have commonalities, that they have the same point of view on the subject which implies the possibility of getting along. It is easy to get along with someone that makes us laugh and that appreciates our jokes. Contrariwise, socializing with someone that never laughs at our jokes or that has a sense of humor that we find boring or shocking is much more difficult.11

8 Koller M. R., 1988. Humor and society. E xplorations in the sociology of humor. Houston: Cap and Gown Press Inc. p. 18 9 Kuipers Giselinde, 2006. Good Humor, Bad Taste, A sociology of the joke. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter.

10 Ross Alison, 1998. The language of humor. New York: Routledge. p. 1 11 Kuipers Giselinde, 2006. Good Humor, Bad Taste, A sociology of the joke. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter.


Chapter 3

Decomposing humor If the variability of humor from one individual to another makes it appear as a complex and random phenomenon, the last chapter has shown that humor is nevertheless an integral part of human life. It is constantly used and experienced in different situations and for different purposes. Humor is present in moments of joy as in moments of pain and allows people to bond and to appreciate or to confront life together. All these observations suggest that there could be a common process in the way humor acts on us. But what is this process ? This question has been the center of numerous studies. From philosophy to psychology, through sociology and communication the subject intrigues. How does humor work ? Over time, many studies have attempted to define the exact process of humor. However, theories follow theories without really ever achieving agreement. The reason people seem to never aggree on one specific approach of humor maybe comes from the fact that everyone has a different interpretation of humor. In short, defining the way humor works is a delicate subject and it might even be pertinent to question the fact of trying to theorize a phenomenon that is so personal. As the artist and designer Pippo Lionni put it when speaking of the theorization of humor, when you put your fingers in the pie you might spoil its taste. Although theories on humor are always contestable, it was necessary for the study to set some basic notions on which to rely throughout the research. These theories will allow a better understanding of the functioning of humor in order to approach the subject of humor in images. Also, because the notion of humor is so subjective, it seems important to define exactly what is understood by the term “humor� as opposed to notions like wit, joke, farce and so on. This study will consider humor as a main phenomenon that encompasses different kinds of techniques such as wit, joke, farce and so on. To understand this, the study refers to the most popular researches and approaches to humor by means of three main notions: the humor process, the humor techniques and the humor theories.


108

The humor process basically describes the different psychological phases a person goes through between the moment in which he is confronted with a humorous content and the moment in which he experiences humor. Theories such as Victor Raskin’s Semantic Script Theory of Humor (SSTH) or Salvatore Attardo’s General Theory of Verbal Humor (GTVH) explore the subject deep in detail. However, in the framework of this study, the process will be approached on a more general level that will be relevant for the specific case of humor in images. In her text Le Dessin Humoristique,1 Violette Morin describes three stages of the assimilation of a humorous content. The first stage consists in the recognition of a familiar situation. It could be compared to the setting of the scenery. At first, the person confronted with the humorous content will decode nothing more than what seems to be, according to his personal references, a perfectly ordinary situation. The second stage consists in the detection and the comprehension of an incongruity. After a more accurate analysis of the humorous content, the person will notice the presence of a disrupting element that transforms the ordinary situation into an incongruous situation. The person will therefore try to find an explanation of the presence of this incongruity. The finding of the solution will lead to the third stage of the process, which consists in the comprehension and assimilation of the idea behind the incongruity. It is apparently the succession of these three stages that creates amusements and makes us experience humor. According to the psychologist Jerry Suls, humor is the result of the resolution of an incongruity. 2 The level of difficulty of the solution will directly influence the intensity of the humor. If the solution is too complicated, the receiver will not be able to understand the essence of the humor. If on the contrary, the solution is too easy, the humorous content will be seen as banal and boring. It is therefore important to find a golden mean. The book A smile in the mind 3 introduces the concepts familiarity and play that lead respectively to the emotions of recognition and surprise. According to the authors, the best humor is the one that implies a lot of familiarity and a lot of play. The initial situation must be must be as easy as possible to recognize in order to be associated to a familiar situation and the incongruity must provoke the biggest surprise possible in order to obtain a lot of play. 1 Morin Violette, 1970. Le dessin humoristique. Communications, Vol. 15, Num. 1, p. 110 –131

Humor. Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues (p. 81–100). New York / London: Academic Press.

2 Suls J., 1972. A two-stage model for the appreciation of jokes and car toons: An information-processing analysis. In: J.H. Goldstein & P.E. McGhee (Ed.), The Psychology of

3 McAlhone B. & Stuar t D., 1995. A Smile In The Mind. London : Phaidon Press Ltd., p. 16


Decomposing Humor

The type of incongruity used to provoke the humor process can be of various natures. These different ways of engendering a humor process are known under the name of humor techniques. Wit, pun, satire, sarcasm, irony, farce, absurdity, burlesque or parody are only a few examples of the innumerous techniques that exist to describe the nature of a humorous content. The humor technique known as black humor, for example, describes a humor that approaches subjects seen as negative or taboo such as death, sickness or physical decay. By presenting an incongruous aspect of these subjects, black humor tends to push the derision to the limits of what is considered as acceptable. The technique known as absurd humor will create incongruity by not making any sense and breaking the rules of normal logic. We could say that humor techniques are to humor what rhetorical figures are to language. In the same way as rhetorical figures, many humor techniques overlap and will be interpreted differently according to the receiver. It is therefore possible to distinguish several different humor techniques in a same humorous content. Considering the amount of existing techniques and the ambiguity there is between some of them, it was necessary for this study to simplify the field by grouping the humor techniques under six categories so as to have a more relevant overview of the subject. Since the study’s main interest is humor in images, the categories were created on the basis of the eleven humor techniques that the artist and art theorist Nicholas Roukes established for the world of art. On the basis of these eleven techniques, the study combined and associated those who had similar purposes so as to obtain the following categories: Appropriation, Farce, Morphology, Pun, Satire and Situation. Appropriation defines various humor techniques in which the essence of the humor comes from the appropriation of famous or familiar subjects such as celebrities, fairy tales, urban legends or any other cultural elements. 

Appropriation 23 –25

This kind of humor

is often found in humor techniques such as parody, comparison, analogy or metaphor. Morphology is the category that concerns any kind of humorous content in which the shapes of the represented objects or concepts are the principal source of humor. 

Mor pho l og y 25 –27

This

category encompasses many different kinds of humor techniques such as exaggeration, hyperbole, caricature, object combination, transmutation, metamorphosis or even deformation.


110

Examples of the humor technique Morphology.

Pun qualifies the type of humor that plays with the meaning the sounds, the aspect or perspectives of words and images. 29 – 32

Pun

Typical examples of this category would be wordplay, rebus

or montage. This category is often close to morphology, although the subject of the humor often has more finesse. Satire regroups humor techniques like black humor, irony, cynicism, sarcasm and so on. The generally provocative kind of humor in this category is used to address subjects seen as severe or taboo by our society and can often endorse the role of social corrector. 

Satire 33 – 35

Indeed, as it was mentioned in chapter two, by

highlighting the ridiculous aspects of our reality, humor can bring to light the absurdity of established systems, rules, traditions, conventions and so on. 4 Farce represents the category of humor techniques that approach with amusement and detachment the particularities of a group. In the same way as satire, farce can endorse the role of social corrector. 

Farce 41– 44

However, in this category the subjects are less

serious and are addressed with more lightness. Situation encompasses humorous contents in which the situation that is put forward constitutes the principal essence of the humor.  Situation 47– 51

This category is characterized by humor techniques

like surrealism, absurd or nonsense.

4 Koller M. R., 1988. Humor and society. E xplora­t ions in the sociology of humor. Houston: Cap and Gown Press Inc. p. 18


Humor in society

As always in humor, it is important to consider that everyone has a different interpretation of a humorous content. Therefore, a same humorous content can be assimilated to different humor techniques depending on the interpreter. As it has been shown, experiencing humor involves finding the solution to an incongruity that can be engendered by different humor techniques. But what is it exactly in the solution of the incongruity that makes us experience humor ? Again, many fields have addressed the subject and it is difficult to find a theory that achieves agreement. Since the goal of this study isn’t to verify or revisit these theories, the decision was made to refer to one of the most popular approaches that encompasses the main theories into macro-theories . 5 This approach gives reasons for why we experience humor by means of the incongruity theory, the superiority theory and the relief theory. The incongruity theory states that humor is provoked by the fact of being confronted with an unexpected situation in which we see unusualness, illogic, irrelevance or absurdity. 

In c o n g r u i t y 53 – 55

This idea could be in agreement with the way humor helps humans confront reality by turning the latter in to ridicule. Aristotle was one of the first to put forward this approach of humor. In the third book of his treatise on the art of persuasion Rhetoric (III, 2), he observes that one of the best ways to get an audience to laugh was to propose an unexpected ending. On an intellectual level, incongruity can be incited by the unexpected assimilation of two or many concepts. This is for example what happens in the cases of wordplay or pun. The German philosopher Immanel Kant (1724–1804) describes incongruity as the result of a frustrated expectation. It corresponds to an emotional reaction to the sudden intrusion of an element that does not having it’s place in the context. 6 According to the German philosopher Ar thur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), the more important and unexpected the incongruity is, the more intense the humor will be.7 The superiority theory is the most controversial theory. In this theory, humor FML originates from mockery. As the philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941), put it, humor is often used to criticize or highlight someone’s or something’s defaults. 8 Whether it is 5 Monro D. H. ,1988. Theories of Humor. In L. Behrens & L. J. Rosen (Eds.), Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum (3rd ed.). Glenview, IL : Scott, Foresman and Company. 6 Kant Immanuel, 1987. Critique of Judgment. Indiana : Hackett Publishing Company. (Originally published 1951)

7 Schopenhauer Ar thur, 1969. The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I. New York : Dover Publications Inc. (Originally published 1818). Sec. 13 8 Bergson Henri, 1980. Laughter, An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic. Baltimore : J. Hopkins University Press.


112

Example of the humor theory Superiority.

conscious or not, the amusement felt when experiencing humor is derived from the feeling of superiority towards the humor’s protagonist. 

S u p e r i o r i t y 5 5 – 57

Although it isn’t a very flattering ap-

proach, it is true that subjects such as stupidity, misery, ugliness or clumsiness are recurrent in humor. And we have to admit that we will often laugh about other people’s mistakes. A good example of this is the success of websites like FML (Fuck My Life) where people post the misfortunes they had in their day. Today, my house was robbed while I sat helplessly on the toilet with violent diarrhea. I could hear them laughing hysterically. FML Today, I yelled out while I was asleep. However, I was sleeping during a very important meeting with customers and my boss. FML Today, I got a text message. It said, “I’m so drunk. What you up to, girl ?” It was my dad. FML 9 In their time, Socrates’ disciple Plato as well as Aristotle had already noticed the relation between the feeling of superiority and the fact of finding something funny. However, it was the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) who developed the most popular approach to this theory .10 He puts forward the idea that laughter is the result of a sudden feeling of superiority over someone or something. This laugh of superiority can been seen as a way of affirming one’s self in front of the roughness of reality, which would correspond with the role humor has in our life as seen in chapter two. 9 Retrieved May 26, 2011 from internet on the website http://w w w.fmylife.com

10 Hobbes Thomas, 1840. Human Nature, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbur y, Vol. IV. London : J. Bohn.


Humor in society

The relief theory implies the release of a tension through the expression of humor. Many intellectuals see this facet of humor as the liberation of physical, psychological or social restrictions.  Relief 61– 63

The theory was principally highlighted by the Austrian

psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). According to Freud, the reaction of humor is a way of releasing the tensions created by the conventions and morals of our society. These go against our natural instincts and submit us to censor. Humor would therefore be a way of thwarting these censors. It could in this context also be a way of noticing how ridiculous some morals or conventions are in the framework of our reality. This would be the reason why a lot of humor involves taboo subjects such as sexuality.11 Individually, each one of these theories will have a number of gaps and points on which they may be criticized. However, each one approaches important aspects of humor and together they pretty well cover the subject. The three theories complete each other and it is therefore not uncommon to detect the presence of more than one theory in a same humorous content. Furthermore, as humor will be different from one person to another, it is possible that two individuals confronted with the same humorous content won’t perceive the same humor theories. An interesting point that is observable in each theory is the possibility of associating humor with a confrontation with reality. For that matter, the Larousse dictionary gives a very short but quite accurate definition of humor this the study will use as reference. It states that: Humor is the act of highlighting with funniness the ridiculous, absurd or unusual aspects of reality. As mentioned previously, the correlation between humor and reality will represent an interesting parameter in the framework of humorous images. Furthermore, reality is an important part of humor since it is in the latter that humor takes place. It is observable at work, with friends, in the streets, on television, in the newspapers, in images, in texts and so on. In short, humor is part of our every day life. And among all the places humor can be found, the field of visual communication is particularly present.

11 Koller M. R., 1988. Humor and society. E xplora­t ions in the sociology of humor. Houston: Cap and Gown Press Inc. p. 7– 9


Chapter 4

Humor in design Humor is a powerful communication tool. It is therefore no surprise that it has easily found its place in the field of visual communication. 

Humor in adver tising 66 – 69

In the framework of this study,

the field of visual communication refers to the subcategory of design in which visual media is generated with the aim of transmitting a message from a sender to a more or less specific receiver. It is important to note that the efficiency of the communication doesn’t only depend on the content of the message. It also largely depends on the capacity and the will of the receiver to decode the concerned message. This is precisely where the field of visual communication plays an important role. Its job is to find the most appropriate visual form to transmit the message. This form must, at the same time, be straightforward enough for the message to be easily decodable and intriguing enough to get the receiver’s attention. This last point is the most difficult part. Nowadays our daily life is submerged with visual media who all have the function of transmitting a specific message. Although some of these messages have a functional purpose (instructions, preventions, and so on), most of them have an advertising goal. On the streets, in public transports, in the newspapers, on television, on the Internet, we are constantly confronted with visual advertising. The constant presence of these media can tend to make them become part of the scenery. It is in some way comparable to what happens when entering a room with a particular smell. At first you will pay attention to it but with time you will get used to it and not even notice it anymore. In the same way, people after a while tend to pay less attention to visual advertising. And even in the case in which they do pay attention, they don’t necessarily have the time or the will to decode all the messages. This phenomenon is commonly named latent inhibition. Using humor to transmit a message can be a potential solution to overcome this problem/situation. Indeed, beyond its amusing and playful aspect, humor can have a real commercial efficiency. As we have seen, humor uses a familiar situation in which it displays


116

an incongruity. The incongruity tends to provoke a sudden irregularity among the usual scenery of visual advertising. This irregularity is precisely the factor that can make the advertisement stand out of the mass and awake the viewer’s curiosity. Wait a minute … why is the … huh!? In order to understand the humorous content, the viewer will have to find the solution to the incongruity. In some way, humor is like an invitation to play. It proposes an enigma that must be solved in order to understand the content. According to the Hungarian author Arthur Koestler, the urge to understand is derived from an urge as basic as hunger or sex.1 In addition, finding the solution to a problem is often a source of personal satisfaction. It therefore seems that humor is an optimal technique to get the public’s attention. Someone who is intrigued will stay with the item until curiosity is satisfied. 2 However, as we have seen previously, when working with humor it is important to take care that the solution to the incongruity is neither too difficult nor too easy. If it is too difficult the viewer might feel frustrated and reject the message. If it is too easy he might consider the humor as week and associate the message to this feeling. Not only is it necessary to consider how difficult the solution to the incongruity is, it is also important to take into account the fact that humor isn’t the same for everyone. When using humor in visual communication, it is essential to be sure that it will fit the target group. This variability of appreciation from one person to another can make the use of humor seem inconsistent. Yet it can also be a benefit. Since humor relies on common references, having the same humor unconsciously implies that we are alike and can probably get along. In the same way, when an advertisement is seen as humorous, the public tends to lower its barriers and appreciate the humorous message. By getting the public’s sympathy, the advertisement is able to associate the intended message with a positive connotation. If I can get you to laugh with me you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas, and if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point I make, by laughing you acknowledge its truth (John Cleese). 3 In addition to getting the public’s attention and sympathy humor allows to create a certain amount of interactivity. In order to understand the humorous content, the public has to solve the incongruity and therefore takes an active part in the communication 1 McAlhone B. & Stuar t D., 1995. A Smile In The Mind. London : Phaidon Press Ltd., p. 19 2 McAlhone B. & Stuar t D., 1995. A Smile In The Mind. London : Phaidon Press Ltd., p. 18

3 McAlhone B. & Stuar t D., 1995. A Smile In The Mind. London : Phaidon Press Ltd., p. 21


Humor in Design

Example of a humorous advertising for dog food. Bad food, bad dog.

process. To give a practical example, let’s say two individuals, Bill and Bob, represent respectively the sender and the receiver and a ball represents the message. Instead of going up to Bob and handing him the ball, Bill throws the ball at Bob who has to work on catching it. An interesting aspect of this interactivity is that the participation requested in order for the receiver to decode the message puts him in an active state of mind through which he will make him more likely to remember the advertisement’s message. Humor holds an important place in the field of visual communication. Not only does it present a lot of advantages, it also procures pleasure and amusement. Proof is all the examples of humorous visual communication that are seen each day in advertisement, corporate design, signage systems, and so on. It therefore seems legitimate to approach the subject of the visual form of humor in the framework of design. Humor in design is as important or unimportant as humor in life (Stephan Sagmeister). 4 4 Stefan Sagmeister’s answer to the following question: How impor tant do you think humor is to design?


Chapter 5

Visual humor If humor seems omnipresent in visual media, the visual form of humor has not been studied much so far. One of the reasons for this is that most of the actual theories on humor are formulated on the basis of verbal humor.1 Of course, it is not uncommon to find humorous images in the framework of studies that work on the main subjet of humor. However, it seems that in the most cases, these studies will approach the field of humorous images as if it had the same properties as the one of verbal humor. 2 And yet, this is not necessarily the case. In her text Le Dessin Humoristique, 3 Violette Morin describes three cases in which text and image interact in the framework of humorous images. In the first case the humor is transmitted by the text. The image is used to stage the content of the text but is not necessarily a source of humor itself. As this study focuses on humorous images in which text can be present provided it is not the principal source of humor, this first case will not be taken into account in the research. In the second case, the humor is communicated as much by the text as by the image. Both the content of the text and the content of the image will be interpreted as humorous. Finally, in the third case, the text and the image aren’t humorous in themselves, but the combination of both will create an incongruity that will lead to a humorous content. While Violette Morin describes the fact that text and image can work together in the framework of a humorous content, she underlines that, although they might in part rely on the same basis, the process of a humorous content communicated by text is not the same as one communicated by image. In both cases, a humorous text and a humorous image will require the three stages of the 1 Hempelmann C. F. & Samson A. C., 2008. Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In Victor Raskin (Eds.), The Primer of Humor Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. p. 613 2 Lowis M. & Nieuwoudt J., 1995. Use of a car toon rating-scale as a measure for the humor construct. The Journal of Psychology 129 (2), 133 –144.

3 Morin Violette, 1970. Le dessin humoristique. Communications, Vol. 15, Num. 1, p 112


120

humorous process: the recognition of an ordinary situation, the detection of an incongruity and the resolution of this incongruity. However, these stages will not necessarily be assimilated in the same way in text and in image. 4 The reason for this comes from the different narrative structure between text and image. If we refer to the basic dramatic structure used in writing and story telling, a humorous content communicated by a text usually follows a linear schema composed of three global parts: a beginning, a middle and an ending. 5 These three components follow each other, gradually giving the receiver the different elements he needs to understand a story. The beginning is known as the exposition and is used to set the scenery. This would correspond to the moment the receiver experiences the first stage of the humor process in which he recognizes an ordinary situation. The transition from the beginning to the middle is known as the incident and involves the emergence of a difficulty. This incident would be the beginning of the second stage of the humor process, in which the receiver detects an unexpected incongruity. The middle, also known as the rising action, consists in the resolving of the complication and would compare to the part of the humor process in which the receiver tempts to find an explanation to the presence of the incongruity. The transit from the middle to the ending is called the climax and announces a turning point. The climax would correspond to with the finding or not of an explanation to the incongruity. Finally, the ending contains the falling action, the denouement and the conclusion, which would be comparable to the last stage of the humor process in which the receiver solves, understands and assimilates the idea behind the incongruity and experiences humor. Throughout its construction, the text will impose the order in which the receiver will obtain and assimilate the different information. This implies that the three stages of the humor process will always follow one another in a linear schema. In the case of text, this linearity in the communication of a humorous content seems to make sense. Indeed, if you start a joke by telling the end, in most cases it won’t have the same humorous effect. Interestingly, in the case of a humorous image, the importance concerning the order in which the stages of the humor process are experienced is different. When looking at an image, the receiver is simultaneously confronted with all the elements that compose the

4 Morin Violette, 1970. Le dessin humoristique. Communications, Vol. 15, Num. 1, p. 114

5 Frey tag Gustav, 2008. Technique of the Drama : An E xposition of Dramatic Composition and Ar t. MacEwan Elias J. ( Trans.). South Carolina: Biblioba zaar. (Originally published 1863)


Visual humor

message at the same time. The receiver will decode one element at a time and assimilate the different kinds of information until he understands the content of the image. Therefore, the order in which the receiver will experience the stages of the humorous process will depend on the order in which he assimilates the different elements. Once all the elements have been interpreted, the receiver will associate the different stages of the humor process and will be able to experience humor. This suggests that in a humorous image, the order in which the receiver will assimilate the different elements is not important. The only constant is that the receiver must be able to decode all the elements that compose the humorous message in order to experience, even in disorder, the three stages of the humor process. The particularity of communicating all the elements at once and letting the receiver decode and assimilate the different information at his own rate, allows images to display a large number of details, which wouldn’t be possible within texts.  71–73

Displaying details

In a text, the rhythm and the length of a humorous content

depend on the narration of the sender. The receiver has to wait until the end of the text to have all the elements and experience humor. Therefore, if a text has too many details and lingers to get to the end, the receiver might lose patience and reject the content or disinterest himself from it. In an image however, the receiver has the liberty of paying attention or not to the details of the image. He can, in a first phase, assimilate the main information and then take the time he wants to analyze the different details of each element or not. 6 Not only do images give the possibility of including numerous details of the content, they also offer the possibility of influencing the visual aspect of these details. Images have the particularity of being able to represent a same element or concept throughout different iconicity levels. In short, the iconicity level indicates the level of visual resemblance between the signifier (the visual representation of a object or concept) and its denotative signified (the visual aspect of the object or concept in reality). The more the signifier will constitute a detailed and realistic visualization of the signified, the higher its iconicity level. Contrariwise, the more the signifier will be a simplified and reduced visualization of the signified, the lower its iconicity level. In other words, in images, the visual aspect an element has in reality can be modified, up to a

6 Hempelmann C. F. & Samson A. C., 2008. Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In Victor Raskin (Eds.), The Primer of Humor Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. p. 621


122

certain point, without losing its initial meaning. The possibility of visualizing elements with different levels of iconicity can represent an interesting parameter in the framework of humorous images. As it was underlined in chapter one, an image’s statement can be nuanced depending on the way the different elements that comprise it are visualized. But the subject of iconicity level raises another interesting aspect of images: the possibility of reinterpreting and modifying reality. As it was put forward in chapter three, humor is the act of highlighting with funniness the ridiculous, absurd or unusual aspects of reality. By reinterpreting and modifying the shapes and colors of the elements that compose an image, it is possible to create and exaggerate a visual incongruity so as to increase the ridiculous aspect of the reality that is represented. It is known that exaggeration and distortion like in caricatures have a comic effect. You can find examples already in ancient decorative art forms (Egyptian, Roman and Greek iconography). Distortions, deviance, anomalies, however, do not lead to amusement in every case, but can also be bewildering, confusing or frightening depending on the interpreter (Andrea Samson).7 Therefore, it seems important to state that the graphic structure of a humorous image doesn’t only have the possibility of varying on an iconicity scale, but also on what could be called an incongruity scale. In this framework, the iconicity scale will indicate the level of visual resemblance between the signifier and the referent and the incongruity scale will indicate the level of incongruity the signifier displays in comparison to the referent. One of the fields of humorous images in which the modification of the visual aspect of elements is very present is humorous drawing. The field in itself is hard to define. Despite the existence of terms like caricature, visual pun or cartoon, it is not always easy to distinguish a clear separation between the different styles of humorous drawings. In the same way, it is hard to evaluate to when and where the first humorous drawings date back. However, it is possible to affirm that the fact of reinterpreting and modifying the elements of a drawing to generate humor has existed for centuries. One of the oldest examples is caricature, which consists in the modification of someone’s or something’s physical proportions in order to create incongruity. 

Caricature 77–79

Analogical transposi-

tion and montage drawings are also well known ways of generating humor throughout the graphic structure. In an analogical transposition the subject of the humor is visualized by means of an 7 Andrea Samson’s response to the question Why can the modification of the visual aspect of an element make it funnier?


Visual humor

Images can display a large number of details.

element that underlines the subject’s ridiculous aspects. For example, in the past, drawings that would make fun of the king of France would visualize the latter by illustrating a pig.  transposition 81– 83

Analogical

In a montage drawing, the incongruity comes from

the assembly of different elements that together compose the representation of a new subject. 8 

Montage drawing 85 – 87

In her text Le Dessin Humoristique, Violette Morin also describes the possibility for the graphic structure of a humorous image to contain incongruity without it being the main source of humor. It is what she calls incongruity redundancy. 9 In these cases, the incongruity of the graphic structure can be seen as a way of enhancing the humorous content. 

Incongruit y redundancy 89 – 91

An ex-

ample of a case of incongruity redundancy would be a humorous image in which the protagonists display goosey gazes, dopey smiles and ridiculously disproportioned noses, while it is their di8 Feuerhahn Nelly, 1993. Traits d’impertinence, Histoire et chefs-d’œuvre du dessin d’humour de 1914 à nos jours. Paris: Somogy.

9 Morin Violette, 1970. Le dessin humoristique. Communications, Vol. 15, Num. 1, p. 115


124

An example of how incongruity redundancy exaggerates ridicule.

alogue or the situation that is the essence of the humorous message. Not only does the modification of the graphic structure of an image permit to add incongruity in order to enhance humor, but experiments tend to show that the fact of simplifying the visual aspect of an image’s elements and exaggerating shapes makes the recognition of the subject easier.10 And as it was seen in chapter three, the recognition of the initial situation of a humorous content should be as easy as possible so as to create a greater contraste when discovering the presence of icongruity. In styles of humorous drawings such as cartoons or caricature, the presence of incongruity redundancy has become an integral part of the graphic structure. The recurrent use of specific visual codes such as rounded shapes, playful colors and exaggerated expressions tends to give these kinds of drawings a particular appearance. As it was shown in chapter one with the fragments of humorous drawings, the recognition of these visual codes allows a receiver to perceive the humorous nature of the image before he even detects the incongruity.

10 Hempelmann C. F. & Samson A. C., 2008. Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In Victor Raskin (Eds.), The Primer of Humor Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. p. 625


Visual humor

At this point it is important to underline the clear difference between the cases in which the design of the graphic structure is the essence of humor and incongruity redundancy, in which it is a way of enhancing an existing humorous content. In the framework of humorous images, incongruity redundancy is a possibility for the graphic structure to nuance the context of an existing humorous content so as to intensify its effect. In many humorous drawings, this is done by giving the elements a funny appearance so as to increase the ridiculous aspect of reality. The importance the relation to reality seems to have in humorous images induced the study to approach a case in which humorous images have a much higher level of iconicity: humorous photography.


Chapter 6

An impression of reality Humorous photography has the interesting specificity of having a graphic structure that displays a high level of iconicity. If humorous drawings seem to indicate that the visual interpretation of reality represents an important parameter in humorous images, what happens when the graphic structure of a humorous image highly resembles this reality ? Humorous photography is all the more interesting that it is a relatively new media in humor.1 Although it can be argued that the ver y first humorous photographs probably star ted to appear along with the beginning of photography, it seems rational to state that it is only recently that we can observe a significant emergence of the media in the field of humor. The popularization of new technologies is probably the main reason of the development of humorous photography. 2 For example, nowadays everyone can afford a digital camera. These cameras allow taking as many photographs as we want without worrying about the film or how much the production of the photographs will cost. There is also the apparition of Internet that allows to rapidly diffuse images to a large audience. This is a good example of how humor will evolve with its time. Since humorous photography represents a new category in humorous images, it seems interesting to question whether or not it follows the same logic and process as categories such as humorous drawings and if it reveals new aspects of the field of humorous images ? For example, does there also exist a form of incong r u i t y r e du nda ncy in the g r a phic s tr uc tur e of humor ous photography ? And can it lead to the emergence of a visual convention in the same way as in humorous drawings ? 1 Shifman L., 2007. Humor in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Continuity and Change in Internet-Based Comic Tex ts. International Journal of Communication 1, 187–209 2 Hurley Dennis, 2010. Humor, Marketing and the Internet: How technological change has given humor renewed purpose. DDB Worldwide Communi-

cations Groupe, in The Yellow Paper Series. Retrieved from internet on April 26, 2010, from w w w.scribd.com. doc/29902279/DDB-Yellow-PaperImpor tance-of-Humour-in-Marketing.


128

The fact that humorous photography is a new medium implies that we will be less likely to recognize any visual conventions or tendencies its graphic structure might have, as we are not yet familiar with them. Therefore, in order to familiarize with the field of humorous photography and observe the possible particularities of its graphic structure, the study collected and classified a serie of 1000 humorous photographs found on the internet. So as to approach the different aspects of humorous photography, the classification was based on two criteria related to humor and one criteria related to photography. The first criterion related to humor was the classification of the humorous photographs according to the humor technique they displayed. The second criterion related to humor was the classification of the humorous photographs according to the humor theory they displayed. The third criterion for the classification was related to photography and concerned the situation in which the photograph was taken. This criterion refers to questions such as: Was the photographer’s initial intention to photograph a humorous subject or did the subject turn out to be humorous unwittingly ? If the photographer’s intention was indeed to photograph a humorous subject, in what circumstances did this happen ? Did the photographer stage the subject so as for it to be humorous ? Did he retouch the photograph in order to make it humorous ? Or was he simply at the right place at the right time ? Through such questions, the thesis developed five categories describing possible situations in which a photograph could be taken. The first category was named Snapshot and corresponds to the situations in which the photographer’s initial intention was not necessarily to photograph a humorous subject, however the situation he was photographing became humorous precisely at the moment he triggered the camera. 

Snapshot 99 –100

The second category was named Instant and describes the situation in which the photographer is suddenly confronted with an unexpected and ephemeral humorous situation that he just has the time to photograph. 

Instant 101–103

Static was defined as the third category. This category describes the cases in which the humorous situation isn’t as ephemeral as in the previous category Instant. In this case, the photographer has the time to notice, discover and appreciate the humorous situation before taking a photograph of it. 

Static 105 –107


An impression of reality

Examples of the situation of Snapshot.

The category Staged describes the situation in which the subject of a photograph is intentionally staged so as to obtain a humorous situation that the photographer will capture. 

Staged 109 –111

Finally, the last category named Montage corresponds to the situation in which the graphic structure of a photograph is altered in order to create or accentuate humor. 

Montage 113 –115

Unlike the criteria of humor techniques and humor theories in which a photograph can easily be classified in more than one category, in the criterion concerning the situation in which the photograph was taken, a photograph should normally be classified in a


130

Theories: Superiority Thechniques: Morphology / Farce / Situation Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity Thechniques: Appropriation / Morphology Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Farce / Satire Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Morphology / Farce / Situation Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Morphologiy / Situation Photograph: Snapshot

Theories: Incongruity / Relief Thechniques: Situation Photograph: Instant


An impression of reality

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Morphology / Situation Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Pun / Farce Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Farce / Situation Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority / Relief Thechniques: Situation Photograph: Instant

Theories: Incongruity Thechniques: Morphology / Situation Photograph: Snapshot

Theories: Incongruity / Superiority Thechniques: Pun / Farce / Photograph: Montage


132

single group. There is of course the situation in which a montage can be observed although the photograph’s subject is humorous in itself, in which case the photograph could be classified in two in categories. Also, because it was not possible to backtrack each photographer to know for sure in what situation the photograph was taken, in some cases, doubt justified the fact of classifying a photograph in several categories. Finally, it is important to note that classification is always subject to personal interpretation and it is clear that the criteria and process used in this study represents only one of numerous possibilities of proceeding for the classification of the images. The result of this classification permitted to establish statistics that give an idea of the kind of situations which humorous photography tend to result from and what kind of humor it generally consists in. But the most relevant observations came from the visual immersion in the field of humorous photography when classifying the 1000 images. Indeed, decoding and classifying these humorous photographs permitted to have an overview of the field during which it was possible to study the particularities of the graphic structure. An interesting observation was that there seemed to be no apparent case of incongruity redundancy in the collection of humorous photography. In other words, there were no examples of humorous photography in which the graphic structure was intentionally used to influence the context’s incongruity in order to intensify the humorous content of the image. This underlines an interesting aspect of humorous photography considering that it doesn’t go along with the properties that have been observed in humorous images up to now. As it was put forward in chapter five, the possibility for the graphic structure to influence an image’s context in order to underline a humorous content seems to be one of the main qualities of humorous images. So for what reason is this particularity not found in humorous photography ? Concerning the groups of Snapshot, Instant and Static, it could be argued that there is no presence of incongruity redundancy because the graphic structure is the result of a mechanical process during which the camera neutrally captured whatever subject was in the range of its frame. The photographer would therefore have had no possibility of influencing the graphic structure in order to integrate a form of incongruity redundancy. However, this is not necessarily true. As specialist of photography, professor Philippe Dubois underlines it in his book L’acte photographique, when a person takes a photograph, he will automatically influence the re-


An impression of reality Results of the classification:

Snapshot

20%

Instant

43%

Static

10%

Staged

47%

Montage

17%

Incongruity

87%

Superiority

37%

Relief

20%

Appropriation

07%

Farce

11%

Morphology

54%

Pun

10%

Satir

11%

Situation

61%

sult of the image through parameters such as framing, angle, light exposure and so on. 3 Therefore, this argument would only be valid in the case in which the photograph triggered the camera without consciously influencing the way the photograph is taken, which is very unlikely. If it is arguable that influencing the graphic structure is not a central point in the categories of Snapshot, Instant and Static, we could however expect to find some form of incongruity redundancy in the categories Staged and Montage. In these two cases, it is clearly implied that there is an intervention in the referent’s visual aspect. In Staged for instance, the graphic structure of the photography is influenced by the way the photographer stages the elements he will photograph. The visual aspect of the elements of the photograph can therefore be influenced by techniques such as playing with perspectives or using ornaments like disguises or make-up. In Montage, the possibilities are even bigger. Since the interventions on the photograph itself, the graphic structure of the photograph can theoretically be treated in the same way as in a humorous drawing. Yet, in these categories there is also no sign of any form of incongruity redundancy. Indeed, in all the cases in which a modification of the graphic structure of a humorous photography can be observed, it is done with the aim of creating a source of humor and not as a way of enhancing an existing humorous content by nuancing its context.

3 Dubois Philippe, 1990. L’acte photographique. France : Les Éditions Nathan.


134

Examples of how Montages seem to try to look as real as possible.

Observing the different tendencies of graphic structure in the field of humorous photography led to another interesting observation. In the cases of Montage it is implied that the referent’s original aspect is subsequently manipulated by modifying the photograph’s graphic structure. However, it seems the results of these graphic interventions always tend to reproduce the exact same level of iconicity as an original photograph. Therefore, many photomontages tend to resemble an original photograph. To explain this particularity, a first hypothesis could be that this high level of iconicity is peculiar to the medium of photography and it is therefore legitimate that the results of these modifications display an identical appearance. Yet, many examples in the fields of art and design show that a photograph can be reinterpreted like any other


An impression of reality

image and that its graphic structure can be manipulated in numerous ways resulting in various kinds of iconicity levels.  ting photography 113 –115

Reinterpre-

If it is possible to modify the graphic struc-

ture of a photograph and to vary its iconicity level, it is theoretically also possible to manipulate its incongruity level. So why is there no presence of incongruity redundancy in humorous photography and why do montages seem to be designed so as to dissimulate the presence of a graphic intervention ? Considering that humor is the act of highlighting with funniness the ridiculous aspects of reality and considering that the level of iconicity of photography highly resembles this reality, a second hypothesis could be that the similarity between our perception of reality and the graphic structure of photography plays an important role in the framework of humor. If a photograph gives the impression that a humorous situation really happened, the perception of a ridiculous reality it procures might be more profound and the humorous effect more intense. This would also explain why there seems to be no presence of incongruity redundancy such as the one found in humorous drawings. Modifying the visual aspects of the elements to increase their incongruity would alter the photograph’s level of iconicity and make it lose its resemblance with reality. But can we really consider that the impression of reality in photography is a relevant aspect nowadays ? The hypothesis that the impression of reality in photography is an important factor for humor revives the famous debate on the relation between photography and the representation of reality. For a long time, photography was considered as being a perfect representation of reality. 4 Since it was the result of a chemical process that transcribes a subject’s image using the reflection of light, photography was seen as an objective interpretation. In his book Un Art Moyen, Pierre Bourdieu shows how strong this belief was by quoting a former French encyclopedia in which it is stated (…) photography doesn’t interpret. It transcribes. Its exactitude and loyalty cannot be questioned (…). 5 Indeed, the process of photography has the particularity of presenting an image with the same appearance as the one our eyes give us of reality. It is because it qualitatively reproduces the shapes colors and proportions that photography displays a high iconicity level and gives us this impression of reality.

4 Bourdieu Pierre, Boltanski Luc, 1965. Sous la direction de Pierre Bourdieu, Un ar t moyen, essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie. Paris : Les Éditions de Minuit.

5 Bourdieu Pierre, Boltanski Luc, 1965. Sous la direction de Pierre Bourdieu, Un ar t moyen, essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie. Paris : Les Éditions de Minuit.


136

Photography in whitch with Joseph Stalin makes Nikolai Yezhov disappear.

However, over time, the idea that photography embodies a perfect representation of reality has strongly been put into doubt. As it was mentioned previously, Philippe Dubois underlines that photography is far from being an objective visualization of reality since it requires the intervention of a photographer who will have a direct influence on the result. 6 Indeed, the reality represented in a photograph can differ depending on the way the photographer will influence parameters such as the frame, the angle, the light exposure and so on. The photographer also has the possibility of influencing the result of the photograph by staging the different elements he will photograph or even by modifying them subsequently throughout photomontages. Throughout history, photography manipulation has been recurrently used to influence viewers’ percep-

6 Dubois Philippe, 1990. L’acte photographique. France : Les Éditions Nathan.


An impression of reality

tion of a context in various frameworks such as political propaganda, wars, news, advertising and so on. 7 Nowadays, it is a known fact that the reality represented in photography can be manipulated in order for it to communicate a chosen context.  Photographic manipulations 115 –117

The examples of historical photogra-

phy manipulations and the constant exposure of new cases seem to have engendered a growing lack of trust in photography. These observations seem to strongly question the possibility for the impression of reality to be an essential parameter of humorous photography. Indeed, if people systematically put the content of photography into doubt, it seems hard for the impression of reality to constitute a relevant factor for humorous photography. Yet, according to the lecturer in information and communication sciences Jean-Louis Weissberg, the suspicion towards the content of photography is not necessarily the result of a growing mistrust. He puts forward that manipulating photography is as old as photography itself and that it is therefore not the manipulations that have made us suspicious but rather our familiarity with the manipulation techniques that induce us to look for them. 8 This implies that, although there is a tendency to analyze photography for the possible presence of manipulation, it is not impossible for the latter to give an impression of reality. Furthermore, it is often put forward that, in the particular framework of humor, a viewer will be in a state of mind in which he tends to lower his natural barriers. 9 It could be that, when confronted with a humorous photograph, people will be less suspicious and will be more interested in simply enjoying the humorous content.

7 Le Marec G., 1985. Les photos truquées, un siècle de propagande par l’image. Paris : Editions Atlas. 8 Weissberg Jean-Louis, 1999. Déplacement vir tuel et réseaux numériques : Pourquoi nous ne croyons plus la télévision. Paris: Les Editions l’Harmattan.

9 McAlhone B. & Stuar t D., 1995. A Smile In The Mind. London : Phaidon Press Ltd., p. 21


Chapter 7

Graphic interventions In order to verify the importance of the level of iconicity in humorous photography and the possible relevance of the impression of reality, the study led an experiment in which a series of five basic graphic interventions were performed on five humorous photographs. It is important to note that the humorous photographs weren’t chosen for their level of humor. Indeed, this would not have been relevant since photographs considered humorous by one person won’t be seen as so by another. The photographs were chosen according to their aptitude of undergoing graphic interventions (quality, shapes, frame, …) and so as that each photograph would represent one of the categories Snapshot, Instant, Static, Staged and Montage previously used for the classification of the 1000 humorous photographs. Concerning the interventions, the study chose to use elementary graphic interventions. This allows the creation of a systematic when applying the interventions and reduces the influence of personal interpretation. It was also decided to avoid any type of incongruity redundancy in the interventions. Indeed, since the goal of the experiment is uniquely to understand the influence of photography’s high incongruity in humor, the presence of incongruity redundancy would alter the statement of the photograph and therefore alter the results. The first intervention is Iconicity. The level of iconicity of an image describes at what point the appearance of the represented elements is close to the one they have in reality. This will help to measure the importance of the impression of reality in humorous photography. Here, the photograph is declined in five images representing the original content of the photograph in different levels of iconicity. The image with the highest level will be the original photograph. The second image will be a simulation of a realistic painting. The third image will consist in a detailed drawing and the fourth a simplified vector illustration. Finally, the fifth image, which will have the lowest level of iconicity, will be a pictogram.


140

The second intervention is Reduction. This intervention will act on the visual composition of the photograph. In a traditional photograph, everything that was in the frame of the camera when it was triggered will be represented. Therefore, a photograph contains different layers depicting all the elements that were captured. But are all these elements really necessary to communicate humor ? Throughout a series of three images, the different elements in the background of the humorous photograph are subtracted from the image until there is nothing left but the humorous elements. Mix is the name given to the third intervention. Photography is originally the result of a chemical or electronic process that transcribes the images reflected by light. The fact that the creation of a photograph always goes through the same process implies that the level of iconicity a photograph will always be the same. Here, the goal was to test the reaction of a humorous photograph when its iconicity level is altered. The iconicity level of certain elements is changed while the rest keeps the original iconicity level. The fourth intervention is named Colors. Color is one of the basic elements of an image. The process of photography has the particularity of qualitatively reproducing the colors of the referent. How important are these colors to the appreciation of a humorous photograph? In this intervention, the original photograph was derived in a series of five images representing one version of the humorous photograph with its original colors, one in black and white, one in blue, one in yellow and one in pink. The last intervention is named Shapes. The aim of this intervention was to observe the impact an external graphic element could have on a humorous photography. This refers to cases in which symbols or typography are subsequently added to the humorous photographs. For this intervention it was decided to use three basic white shapes (square, circle and diamond) in order to see if some directions are more appropriate than others. One after another, the shapes were then placed in the middle of the humorous photograph. The result was a series of three original photographs in each one of which one of the graphic shapes was integrated. These graphic interventions led to a total of five series of five image sequences. Each image sequence permitted the comparison of the original version of a humorous photograph with a series of versions in which its graphic structure had been more or less modified according to the type of graphic intervention.


Graphic inter ventions

In order to evaluate the impact these graphic interventions have on the interpretation and appreciation of the humorous photographs, a quantitative survey counting 300 participants was conducted via the Internet. The system used to measure the effect of the interventions on the interpretation of the humorous photography was inspired by the principle of semantic differentiation. Semantic differentiation is a method used to measure impressions and emotions originally developed by Charles Osgood, George Suci and Percy Tannenbaum in their book the Measurement of Meaning.1 The method consists in creating a graduated scale between two opposed adjectives (for example good and bad or pretty and ugly). This scale allows the participants to give their impression on the subject of the survey. In the framework of this survey, it was decided to use a simplified version of the semantic differentiation. For each sequence, the participant was asked to designate which was the image he found to be the funniest and which was the one he found to be the least funny. In parallel to the quantitative survey, a qualitative survey with 10 participants was conducted with the aim of getting a better understanding of the reasons of certain choices. Before approaching the actual results of the survey, it seems important to highlight a couple of observations that were made when collecting the data. A first observation is that, in the framework of the quantitative survey, the participation rate for each image sequence varied between 89% and 63%. One of the reasons for this variation could be the length of the survey. Indeed, it was noticed that the participation had the tendency to decrease when approaching the last image sequences. However, during the qualitative survey it was often mentioned that it wasn’t necessarily easy to define which image was funnier. This comment could imply that, in some cases, the participant might have simply chosen the image he found the most aesthetic, or even more realistic. Another important parameter to take into account when considering the behavior of a participant is the possibility of the latter to, consciously or unconsciously, answer the questions so as to be part of what he considers as being the norm. In sociology, this parameter is known as the social desirability. Therefore, it is necessary to keep in mind that the participant maybe tried to answer according to what he felt was awaited from him rather than giving an authentic opinion. 1 Osgood C., Suci G., Tannenbaum P., 1957. The measurement of meaning. Illinois: University of Illinois Press.


142

+36 / -16

+27 / -21

+15 / -19

+1 / -26

+5 / -12

+3 / -42

+39 / -11

+21 / -48

+22 / -26

+58 / -27

+21 / -56

+21 / -21

+58 / -23

+4 / -36

+13 / -10

+55 / -18

+14 / -60

+32 / -24

+55 / -17


Graphic inter ventions

+15 / -39

+27 / -15

+6 / -13

+1 / -34

+0.5 / -35

+5 / -10

+74 / -3

+7 / -67

+4 / -26

+89 / -7

+6 / -81

+11 / -10

+82 / -9

+6 / -38

+6 / -10

+60 / -4

+17 / -51

+34 / -30

+48 / -19


144

Concerning the results of the quantitative survey, an interesting observation is that they seem to indicate a clear position of the participants regarding the modification of the graphic structure of a humorous photograph. It seems that, in almost every case, the less the images have been modified the more they are considered as the funniest and the more the images have undergone a graphic intervention the funny they seem to be considered funny. When analyzing the results of the survey for the intervention Iconicity, it was noticeable that the image with the highest level of iconicity (the original photograph) was recurrently designated as the funniest image. In several cases during the qualitative survey, it came up that the participant considered the photograph was the funniest because it showed the situation really happened. This observation tends to demonstrate that the high iconicity of a photograph can indeed provoke an impression of reality that is important for the appreciation of its humorous content. It is also noticable that the image with the lowest level of iconicity is voted as being the least funny. We could therefore expect that with higher levels of iconicity, the more often the image will be designated as funny, and with lower levels of iconicity, the less frequently the image will be considered as funny. Yet this is not always the case. In the sequence of images representing a kid running away from pigeon droppings, the image using a pictogram was designated as the funniest almost as much times as the original photograph. When questioned on this choice the participants of the qualitative survey often answered that the appearance of the pictogram effectively transcribed the essence of the humorous content. This remark seems to underline the fact that some humorous content might be easier to adapt to different levels of iconicity than others. But another interesting observation during the qualitative survey was that an image was often designated as the least funny when the elements were difficult to decode. Indeed, it is a known fact that a humorous image is more effective when the content is rapidly decodable. 2 The intervention of Reduction had the specificity of eliminating little by little all the elements in the background until only the humorous elements were left. Considering the results of the intervention Iconicity, we could expect that the image with the most Reduction would be considered as the funniest. Indeed, Reduction keeps the high level of iconicity of a photograph while displaying only the essential elements of the humorous content. This 2 Hempelmann C. F. & Samson A. C., 2008. Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In Victor Raskin (Eds.), The Primer of Humor

Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. p. 624


Graphic inter ventions

would allow for the humorous content to be rapidly decoded and assimilated. Yet, it is the image representing the original photography that was considered the funniest by the majority. The image with the most Reduction was, on the contrary, considered as the least funny. One reason could be that the fact of eliminating the background of the image deprives the remaining elements from a context that is essential to the humorous content. However, another interesting aspect came up during the qualitative survey when a participant stated that the images in which only the humorous elements were left were disturbing because the elements would stand in the middle of nothing. This comment seems to underline the presence of a visual convention concerning photography. As it was mentioned when describing the intervention of Reduction, a traditional photograph automatically represents every element that was in its frame when the camera was triggered. Due to the mechanisms of the camera, this frame always delimits the spectrum throughout a rectangular shape. Therefore the graphic structure of a photograph traditionally fills a rectangular surface. If it is clear that the background of a photograph has the important role of transcribing the context, the importance for this background to fill the totality of a rectangular surface seems to be a question of visual conventions. Another parameter that shows signs of a visual convention is the constancy of the graphic structure in a photograph. Indeed, the graphic structure is defined by the mechanisms of photography and will therefore always display the same appearance. The intervention Mixes aimed to observe what happens when this appearance was altered. When considering the results of the intervention Iconicity, it would be consistent for the image with the highest level of iconicity to be considered as the funniest. And this is the case. The original photograph is recurrently designated as the funniest, and the images in which the most elements have been altered were designated as the least funny. During the qualitative survey, it was put forward that the images containing elements with another level of iconicity looked false. This comment seems to confirm the hypothesis that the impression of reality plays an important role in the appreciation of a humorous photograph. One of the basic elements that allow photography to have an appearance close to the one our eyes give us of our reality is color. By using the reflection of light to transcribe an image, photography has the particularity of qualitatively reproducing the colors of


146

the referent. On one hand, if the impression of reality is important to the appreciation of humorous photography, it seems the image representing the original photograph will be considered the funniest. On the other hand, some theories on humor put forward that play ful shapes and colors evoke higher humorous responses. 3 When analyzing the results of the intervention Colors, it appears the image that was considered the funniest was the original photograph. This result tends to indicate that the impression of reality is more important than the incongruity playful colors can bring to a humorous photograph. However, an interesting thing is that the image that comes out as the second funniest image is not one of the images with a playful color, it is the one in black and white. This result is actually not so surprising. Indeed, at its beginnings, photography only allowed to produce black and white images. Therefore, whereas the black and white image is not a qualitative reproduction of the appearance our eyes give us of reality, the historical background of photography might influence us to place it on the same level as the image displaying the original colors of the photograph. Here again, the appreciation of humorous photography seems to be influenced by visual convention. Another interesting observation in the results of the intervention Color was that the images with the color magenta were systematically considered as the least funny. When asking the participants of the qualitative interview why, some participants put forward that they could associate the color yellow to the concept of day and the color blue to the concept of night but didn’t understand the presence of pink in the sequence. Again, this seems to show a tendency of seeking a relation between the appearance of a photograph and the one of reality. If the results of the previous interventions seem to indicate that it is delicate to alter the graphic structure of the elements represented in a photograph, the intervention Shapes will allow to observe what happens when extern elements are integrated into a humorous photograph. The goal is to see if some fundamental shapes are more appropriate than others in the framework of humorous photography. As it was mentioned earlier, theories tend to consider that playful shapes evoke higher humorous responses. 4 It was also seen that some playful shapes are recurrently used in cartoons in order to obtain incongruity redundancy. The results of 3 Hempelmann C. F. & Samson A. C., 2008. Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In Victor Raskin (Eds.), The Primer of Humor Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. p. 624

4 Hempelmann C. F. & Samson A. C., 2008. Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In Victor Raskin (Eds.), The Primer of Humor Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. p. 624


Graphic inter ventions

this intervention also seem to go in this direction. The images containing the circle and the diamond, which are rather playful and dynamic shapes, tend to be indicated as the funniest. On the contrary, the images containing the square, which has a more strict connotation, tend to be designated as the least funny. However, knowing that the previous results often indicate the presence of visual conventions, it seems important to consider the possibility that the influence of shapes is also due to some kind of visual conventions. The possible presence of a visual convention concerning shapes was observed during the qualitative survey when a participant asked if it was right to designate the rectangle as the least funny because it was a boring shape. As it was seen in chapter one, the recurrent use of specific visual codes such as rounded shapes and exaggerated expressions in some humorous drawings has created some kind of visual code throughout which we tend to easily associate some shapes and colors to humor. To resume, the results of this experience seem to strongly indicate that the impression of reality, which is given to us by the high iconicity of photography, is an essential parameter for the appreciation of a humorous photograph. Yet, as it has been seen in chapter six, it seems that there is nowadays a strong tendency to denunciate the fact that photography is not an efficient representation of reality considering that it is always influenced by the photographer and can be subsequently manipulated. So how can it be that the impression of reality still seems relevant in humorous photography ? Although it is true that photography will always be a reinterpreted representation of reality, it is apparently impossible to deny the fact that its high iconicity gives us an impression of reality. 5 Therefore, if humor is the act of underlining with funniness the ridiculous aspects of reality, the efficiency of humorous photography maybe lies in the fact that its high iconicity depicts these ridiculous aspects of reality with an identical appearance as the latter. This is the reason it seems so delicate to modify the iconicity level of a humorous photography. However, the survey also revealed that some interventions seemed to disturb participants although the iconicity level wasn’t the center of the modification. In these cases, the disturbance seemed to be related to the fact that the appearance of the photography didn’t correspond to expectations. This observation allowed to reveal the existence of a certain amount of visual conventions concerning the graphic structure of photography.

5 Thonnon Laurence, June 2008. La perception de la réalité dans l’image photographique à l’ère du numérique.

Unpublished master’s thesis, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, Nice


Chapter 8

Discussing the topic After a first phase of literary research and a second phase of empirical research, a third step of the study was to collect the opinions of different people that are in some way concerned with the subject of humor, images or both. Among the people the study interviewed were Andrea Samson (psychologist), Ruedi Baur (designer), Pippo Lionni (designer), Alessio Leonardi (designer), Mix & Remix (illustrator). The idea was to confront them with the subject and results of my thesis in order to get spontaneous and authentic reactions. The different points of view that resulted from these interviews allowed to stand back and reconsider some aspects of the study from a new angle.


150

ridicule, insolite ou absurde de certains aspects de la réalité”. Que pensez-vous de cette association entre l’humour et la réalité ? Quand je parle d’autordérision c’est un peu ça. Nous pouvons nous considérer d’une manière très sérieuse et voir toutes les choses d’une manière très triste. Mais nous pouvons aussi

Ruedi Baur

nous dire que nous sommes des êtres un peu bizarres et essayons de découvrir le ridicule

Designer Zürich, 21.01.2011

de certains aspects de notre société.

Né en 1956 à Paris, Ruedi Baur est un designer francosuisse. Entre autres projets marquants, mentionnons l’identité visuelle et signalétique du Centre Pompidou, la signalétique et l’identité du Parc de Chambord, de la Cité Internat ionale de Lyon, de la Cité Internat ionale Universitaire de Paris, du tramway de Reims en forme de flûte à Champagne, et bien d’autres.

Là où l’humour m’intéresse vraiment c’est que plus la situation est dramatique il n’y a d’autre moyen que l’humour pour le dépassé. C’est la grande leçon du dadaisme qui vient après la guerre, on est face à un truc immense et on ne peut l’aborder et le dépasser que par l’hu-

Que représente l’humour selon vous ?

mour qui permet de dérider l’ensemble de la

Quand vous parlez de la photographie et des

situation. On en a besoin aujourd’hui à nou-

nouveaux médias, je pense que l’humour est veau car nous sommes dans un ridicule qui un code relié à des situations. Ce qui peut

soit nous écrase soit au dessus duquel nous

paraître réjouissant ne se base pas obligatoi- devons nous placer pour montrer l’absurde de rement sur une iconographie qui est humoris- la circonstance. tique ce la pe ut être e n r a pp o r t ave c un contexte et des circonstances qui donnent la

Comment contrecarrer la montée du racisme

dimension humoristique. C’est bien cela qui

ou de l’UDC ? Ce n’est pas en contre argu-

m’intéresse personnellement c’est l’humour mentant. Il n’y a plus qu’un moyen, c’est de dans une situation. Notamment l’autodérision. montrer l’absurdité de l’ensemble du procesC’est arrivé à prendre une distance par rap- sus. C’est pour moi la seule solution possible. port à une certaine situation.

Benini a fait un film sur le fascisme, quand il introduit une goutte d’humour qui fait explo-

Tout image peut être humoristique si on la met

ser le système je trouve cela très intéressant.

dans un contexte, c’est utiliser une image pour qu’elles agissent dans un cer tain lieu

Dans mes recherches j’ai aussi abordé la no-

pour lui donner le sens que l’on souhaite.

tion que l’humour est propre à l’homme et il lui

L’art de la communication visuelle c’est sou- est vital. Qu’en pensez-vous ? vent de mettre la petite légende qui fait que Je pense que c’est une forme de défense ull’image devient décalée et absurde. La vision

time. L’humour permet de se détacher de

la plus intéressante est le rapprochement

quelque chose et permet de se regarder soi-

d’une image et d’un contexte.

même dans cette situation. Je fais une diffé-

La définition de l’humour dans le dictionnaire

di c uli s e r c e lui qui n e fa i t p a s p a r ti e d e

Larousse est “une forme d’esprit qui cherche

l’intérieur de l’humour où on fait partie du pro-

à mettre en valeur avec drôlerie le caractère

cessus, celui où on est un des ridicules.

rence entre l’humour raciste qui consiste a ri-


Discussing the topic

L’image n’est pas marrante en tant que tel

a le même processus que celui de la sérosité.

mais dans l’action. L’objet humoristique est en

Et que nous sommes tous les deux dans cet

lien avec la situation dans laquelle ce dernier acte de pas y croire mais au même temps s’est développé.

jouer avec.

Dans la communication visuelle, l’humour est Vous-pensez que l’humour a un impact dans une technique très utilisée, à votre avis quels

votre travail ?

sont ses avantages ou ses forces ?

Je suis plus intéressé dans rendre lisible des

Je pense que nous sommes tous conscients

situations ridicules que d’utiliser l’humour

d’être dans un espace de propagande et

pour tenter de convaincre. L’humour est un

d’inutile et de ridicule de part la situation. Et je

outil important pour contre carré à la déso-

crois qu’on en est déjà au troisième retourne- rientation. Les parkings souterrains: anxiété. ment par rapport à ça. C’est à dire qu’on est

Il est lié à toutes les iconographies où ils se

conscient des vices de la consommation, on

passent des choses terribles. Donc on est

ne peut plus dire qu’on est pas au courant et

très rapidement dans cette anxiété. Tu peux

le seul moyen de dépasser cette culpabilité ou

rendre toute cette situation ridicule et rendre

la tristesse de la situation c’est de se dire

conscient cette chaîne d’éléments et détour-

“bon, c’est un petit théâtre, j’y participe et je

ner la situation. L’humour peut aider à ce

me fais plaisir”. Je crois que aujourd’hui le

genre de situations, aussi liés à des non-lieux.

consommateur est dans cette situation, la si- J’utilise également l’humour par le côté sartuation de dépassement de l’inconscient et de

castique par exemple avec la carte de vœux et

ces choses là. Il a totalement pigé comment

en utilisant l’humour comme un outil de déri-

fonctionne la machinerie, il a totalement pigé

sion d’une situation.

ce qu’est la communication, il sait très bien qu’il est influencé, il décode bien plus qu’on

Est-ce que vous voyez des différences entre

ne le pense tout le système qu’on établi pour l’humour en forme textuelle et l’humorous essayer de le persuader. Donc c’est bien qu’il

sous forme d’image?

accepte de se faire persuader. Ça c’est ma

Ce qu’il y a de différent c’est la chaîne narra-

théorie de base de la consommation actuelle, tive. Quand tu racontes une bonne blague il y c’est qu’on accepte d’être parti prenant. Parce

a tout le processus de narration qui te tiens.

qu’on a pas vraiment d’autre choix ou parce

Alor s que dans une image tu es dans un

que l’autre choix est hyper difficile et parce

schème de lecture plus instantané. C’est plus

qu’on peut pas toujours être triste on y parti- premier degré et plus banal. Je trouve que cipe et on essaie de prendre son pied dans le

ceux qui travaillent avec la complexité de

truc et on joue avec. Et donc l’humour comme

l’image, où tu découvres petit à petit des nou-

forme de communication est aussi un mes- velles choses, tout ce qui révèle du premier sage de dire que tout les deux on est bien

degré est vite un peu lourd.

conscient que. On joue. Moi je joue à te persuader mais je sais que tu sais que… On est Que pensez-vous de la possibilité de jouer dans une sorte de dérision de la situation tout

avec les formes des différents éléments dans

en prenant acte à cette situation, ce qui est

l’image humoristique ?

très très pervers. Si c’est le récepteur qui uti- On voit bien celles qui ont un potentiel humolise ce moyen c’est pour sa défensive, il doit

ristique et on remarque que c’est l’autodéri-

comprendre que dans cette forme d’ironie il y

sion de la forme même qui provoque un po-


152

tentiel d’humour. Déjà la forme, comme chez La photographie ouvre d’autres domaines Disney, on force sur les traits d’un person- d’humour là où la BD n’y arrive pas. Avec un nage puis on rajoute une couche avec des

bémol concernant la publicité dont nous

actions et une situation qui l’accompagnent.

avons discuté tout à l’heure. Par exemple, en

Il y a des photographes qui arrivent à être

Allemagne il y a eu une campagne pour les

dans cette hyperréalité. Je pense que l’on

soutiens gorge qui était basée sur des mo-

peut considérer que CHEF WOLS arrive à re- dèles a priori pas photogéniques, une sorte tourner le quotidien et c’est ce qui m’intéresse

de sincérité d’humour par rapport à la situa-

dans l’humour en regardant le banal mais en

tion publicitaire qui s’introduit que je trouve

le regardant autrement et de l’observer par le

très intéressant.

fait d’un petit décalage. Le comique essaie de

Les cartes de vœux que je fais, c’est de dire

faire cela aussi. Les premiers Disney avaient

que je prend une situation banale, triste, ex-

un lien avec la réalité et la société qui est fort

plosive et je la repor te dans le rituel de la

et c’était encore pertinent, à partir du moment

carte de vœux. Ces décalages qu’ils soient

où l’humour se détache complètement de la

photo, typo, illustration c’est ce qui fait que

réalité cela pert un peu de ce sens.

c’est intéressant.

Le fait de pouvoir modifier la réalité à sa guise

D’après vous, la représentation visuelle ne

pour la rendre humoristique,…

changerait donc pas forcément ?

Il y a une double réalité. Il y a éloigner la figu- Il y a tout un monde de l’humour où on est rine de son réel donc pas une transformation

dans l’humour pour l’humour on est plus dans

et ensuite il y a la réalité de la situation. Et je

le rapport de la réalité. C’est ce qui amuse les

trouve que ce qui marche par ticulièrement

enfants, mais c’est plus intéressant quand

bien c’est quand la situation est relativement

cela parle de la réalité et qu’il arrive à la dé-

réelle mais que son interprétation s’en éloigne. p a s s e r. L e s S i m p s o n s c’e s t exa c te m e nt Avec un décalage d’un côté et banalité de

l’exemple de cette permanente relation entre

l’autre. On a deux types de BD, et celles qui

ce que nous faisons et cette famille qui est

marchent bien se sont celles des journaux. très répétitive mais qui touche à beaucoup de Car on réagit à une situation en la redéfinis- problématiques. sant par un quelconque décalage. La photographie apporte un nouvel aspect car Est-ce que la forme dénotative d’une image va

elle est proche du réel mais au même temps

redéfinir sa connotation ? Dans le sens, atten- cette réalité est très remise en question. Donc tion ceci est de l’humour.

est-ce qu’en prenant une photographie et en

La photographie n’est pas aussi codée que

faisant une intervention est-ce que cela à un

les comics. C’est souvent ceux qui sont le

impact sur son degré d’humour ?

moins humoristiques qui sont le plus éton- On remarque ici que la situation dans l’absnants, on cherche de l’humour mais il n’y en a

traction n’est pas marrante, mais elle l’est

pas. (…) La photographie a un très haut ni- dans le fait que cela c’est vraiment passé. veau d’iconicité qui se rapporte très grande- On remarque qu’avec l’image cela peut aller ment à la réalité, malgré sa remise en ques- très vite, on peut faire basculer avec un rien tion, la photographie donne cette impression

une image dans l’humour ou dans le drame,

de représentativité. Est-ce que l’humour peut

c’est sur un fil.

être renforcé par cette impression de réel?


Discussing the topic

Alessio Leonardi Designer Berlin, 24.03.2011

Alessio Leonardi is an it alian Ty pe and Graphic Designer who lives in Berlin. He worked at MetaDesign with Erik S piekermann and t hen was (t ill 2 0 0 5) one of t he two owners of the Design Studio Leonardi.Wollein. Some t ypefaces: Schering Sans, Schering Serif, Scher i n g L e t t e r, F F L e t t e r i n e , F F M a t t o, F F P r i s k a L i t t l e Creatures, F2 F S imbolico, F2 F Tagliatelle S ugo, BMF E ll eono r a D u n Ca n e, BM F Tes t u a l e, BM F Pi n acotec a Brera, BMF Change, FF Handwriter.

Während meiner Recherche für meine Arbeit kam ich zum Schluss, dass Humor in allen Bereichen des täglichen Lebens vorkommt. Er ist wahrscheinlich auch sehr wichtig für das tägliche Leben. Was repräsentiert Humor für dich ? Wie wichtig ist Humor für dich ? Ja, also ich kann mir nicht vorstellen ohne Humor zu leben. Ich stehe auf und das erste was ich denke ist, wie kann ich den Tag überstehen. Das kann man oft besser mit ein bisschen Humor. Ich bin kein Wissenschaftler, aber ein Fan von Wissenschaft und interessiere mich für Astronomie, Kosmologie und Naturwissenschaften im Allgemeinen. Ich denke auch daran, dass unser Planet ein kleines Korn im Sonnensystem ja ein Mikrokorn im Universum ist und wir somit im Weltall im Dunkeln herumfliegen. Mit dieser Betrachtungsweise sieht man irgendwie auch, dass wir jeden Tag aufstehen wie kleine Maschinen und alles Mögliche machen, als ob es nichts wichtigeres gäbe. Wenn man dies nicht mit ein bisschen Humor sieht würde man sich oft auch fragen ob es

sich überhaupt lohnt so weiterzumachen. Natürlich bedeutet das nicht, dass die Dinge die wir täglich machen nicht in sich wichtig sind. Aber es ist doch auch irgendwie wichtig, dass man immer eine gewisse Relation zum ganzen Universum hält. Humor ist ein bisschen dazu da eine Position zum richtigen Wert zurückzulegen. Humor ist auch dazu da, damit man sich selbst nicht zu ernst nimmt. Oder wenn man sich ärgert kann Humor helfen, die Situation ein bisschen von aussen zu betrachten und auch lustige Aspekte dieser Situation zu erkennen. Und das ist für mich im Prinzip eine wichtige Rolle von Humor. Auch um auf dem Boden zu bleiben. Wenn man zum Beispiel an den Ur sprung der Komödie in Griechenland denkt . Dort war Humor auch dazu da, um über mächtige Personen und Götter zu lachen. Das war für die Menschen damals auch eine Art Freiheit. Es gibt natürlich auch Staaten in welchen es verboten ist sich lustig über die Machthaber zu machen. Die Menschen dor t machen das dann trotzdem einfach versteckt. Die Idee, dass man das L achen ve rbietet ist das schlimmste was man sich vorstellen kann. Die Unterdrückung der Komödie kam ja auch beim Namen der Rose vor. Ich habe nach den Definitionen von Humor gesucht und habe viele verschiede Definitionen gefunden. Eine Definition die ich besonders interessant gefunden habe war in einem französisch Wörterbuch. Dort heisst es: Humor ist eine Art wie man die Realität oder das Ungewöhnliche mit Witz unterstreicht. Was meinst du dazu ? Was wäre dann für dich dieser Bezug zur Realität. Im Prinzip ist es eine Hilfe die Realität erträglicher zu machen. Es ist die Freiheit mit Umständen umzugehen, die man nicht unbedingt kontrollieren kann oder über die man vielleicht keine Entscheidungskraft hat. Das geht aber schon eher in Richtung Satire.


154

Wenn man sich denkt, ich kann dich nicht mit Macht besiegen, aber ich kann über dich lachen. Meistens ist ja Humor nichts Brachiales. Es geht um Feinheiten. Es gibt viele Leute die ganz gut mit der Sprache umgehen können, und wenn man einen Buchstaben einfach ein bisschen länger zieht ergibt sich schon eine komische Situation an sich. Das finde ich spannend. Ich bin jetzt seit fast 20 Jahren in Deutschland. Am Anfang hatte ich in manche Aspekten Schwierigkeiten, die Witze zu verstehen. Da musste ich zuerst auch herausfinden wie man Witze erzählen oder verstehen sollte.

zubringe n. D ie Sache n sind e r nst, ma n erzählt wichtige Dinge. Wenn man Humor reinbringt löst man die Steife der ganzen Erscheinung. Die Betrachter und Benutzer der erhaltenen Information merken dadurch auch, dass das auch Menschen die das hergestellt haben. So wird nichts vorgetäuscht. Ich habe gerade ein Buch gemacht über das Corporate Design von der Messe Frankfurt. Es gibt auch diese Momente im Buch, wo man auch ein bisschen über sich selbst lachen kann. Das ist bei den Leuten sehr gut angekommen. Im Prinzip ist Humor manchmal auch beim Design ein Schlüssel um eine Barriere oder Misstrauen zu überwinden. Wie bei einem In visueller Kommunikation ist Humor auch Meeting mit Leuten die man nicht kennt. Dort ein grosses Thema. Ich denke da zum Beis- hilft auch ein kliener Witz am Anfang um die piel an Karikaturen in Werbungen und in Leute ein bisschen aufzulockern. Zeitungen. Warum ist Humor in diesem Beriech so präsent ? Hat es damit zu tun weil Im Rahmen der visuellen Kommunikation gibt Humor halt überall vorkommt oder gibt es es diese denotative Form. Man sagt im Bild spezifische Kräfte die das fördern ? gibt es die denotative Form und die konnotaNatürlich ist Kommunikationsdesign nicht tive Form. Was man dann eben bei humorisgetrennt von dem was wir machen, sagen tischen Zeichnung bemerkt ist erstens die oder erzählen wollen. Dieser Teil wird natür- Möglichkeit eine Realität abzuändern, sodass lich miteinbezogen. Ich habe eher das Gefühl, sie trotzdem noch erkennbar bleibt. Es gibt in dass es unterschätzt wird, dass eher ver- di e s e r Hi n s i c ht e i n e n S p i e l r a u m e t wa s sucht wird ernst zu bleiben wenn man kom- darzustellen. Zweitens, gibt es in Comics munizieren will. Kommunikation findet auf un- manchmal bestimmte Zeichnungen die einen terschiedlichen Ebenen statt. Gestern habe Stil haben gegeben durch Form und Farbe ich mich bei einem treffen unter Kollegen um- die aus Gewohnheit bereits implizieren, dass geschaut um zu sehen, wie viele Leute spas- es um Humor geht. Was denkst du, woher sig angezogen waren. Dabei ist mir aufgefal- kommt diese Gewohnheit zu diesem beslen, dass grau oder Schwarz trugen. Als ich timmten Stil, grossen Nasen etc. ? dann nachgefragt habe, kriegte ich oft die Ich bin kein Wissenschaftler, aber ich denke Antwort: weil es neutral ist. Ich denke, dass das hat auch mit den Proportionen zu tun, die Leute meistens so ernst wie möglich sein wenn man bestimmte Muster verändert. Man wollen beim Kommunizieren. Gerade hier erkennt Menschen weil unser Gehirn so funkfehlt deshalb ab und zu die Fähigkeit sich das tioniert, dass wenn eine bestimmte Symmeganze ein bisschen vom humoristischen As- trie da ist wir ein Gesicht erkennen können. pekt anzuschauen. Obwohl gewisse Leute Unser Gehirn erkennt anscheinend diese einen Job mit viel Verantwortung haben ist Muster. Im Gehirn haben wir aber auch eine nicht jeder unverzichtbar. Ich mache oft Pro- Definition der Proportionen, welche die einjekte wo ich versuche diesen Humor herein- zelnen Elemente zueinander haben müssen


Discussing the topic

um als Menschlich wahrgenommen zu werden. Sobald es eine Abweichung bei einem dieser Elementen gibt, haben wir das Gefühl, dass es lustig ist. Zum Beispiel die grosse Nase. Das gleiche ist vorhanden wenn die Nase ganz weg gelassen wird. Aber in der Figur die ich hier vor mir sehe, bemerkt man dass alles auf die Spitze getrieben worden ist. So hat man das Gefühl der Mensch ist lustig. Er hat einen Eierkopf, ein kleiner Hut etc. die Proportionen variieren also überall. Das ist ja auch das Prinzip bei Karikaturen. Was mich an dieser Zeichnung an diesem Stil interessiert ist, dass durch die Form der Humor unterstrichen wird. So erzeugt nicht unbedingt die Handlung selbst, sondern einfach die Form und die Umgebung den Humor. Beim Fotografieren habe ich bemerkt, dass bei nie solche Figuren vorkommen. Es gibt einfach das Bild, das sehr nahe zur Realität ist. Ich habe mir damit bescäftigt und mabe mich die Frage gestellt, ob man auch in der Fotographie mit dem Foto spielen oder es umgestalten beispielsweise mit Montagearbeiten. Ich habe dann bemerkt dass momentan ca. 90% der Fotos keine Montagen sind und falls doch, versucht man sie real zu halten. Man sieht also selten eine offensichtliche Verzerrung der Realität. Sehen Sie dafür irgendwelchen Grund ? Ich sehe da den Unterschied zwischen Zeichnung und Fotographie. Für uns ist Fotographie meistens Abbildung der Realität. Wir wissen das Fotos manipulierbar sind. Wir haben eine gewisse Skepsis Fotos gegenüber, aber im Allgemeinen wird ein Foto als eine normale Abbildung der Realität verstanden. Die Fotos hier zeigen eine Situation die real ist. Mit diesem eingefrorenem Moment kreiert man eine Art von Erwartung was danach pass i e re n k a n n. D i e s e Er wa r tu n g h at e i n e gewisse Komik nicht in sich aber das Bild ist lustig. Der Tennisspieler kuckt den Ball an,

als ob seine Augen zum Ball gehen würden. Man stellt sich dann vor, dass der Ball ihm auf den Kopf fällt. Aber ob das wirklich geschieht wissen wir nicht. Wir bilden uns die Bilder davor und danach selber, sowie in einem Comic. Das Bild mit den eingegrabenen Leuten am Strand mit der Welle die kommt: Hier wissen wir nicht ob es einfach ein Problem der Perspektive ist. Aber es sieht lustig aus, da man das Gefühl hat, dass diese Leute bald ein Problem kriegen werden. Im Prinzip brauch ein Foto nicht riesige Nachbearbeitungen um lustig zu sein, wenn man den richtigen Blick hat beim fotografieren. Man kriegt diese Komik ohne Schwierigkeiten rein. Aber wie gesagt, es funktioniert nur mit unserer Mitwirkung. Aber dann ist es schon fast ein Bezug zur Realität, sodass man den Eindruck hat, dass es wirklich passiert ist. Oder dass es passieren könnte. Es muss nicht zwingend passieren oder passiert sein. Fotographie war lange auch das Medium um Realität darzustellen. Heute sind wir in einer anderen Phase, wo die Leute sagen können, ob etwas Montage ist oder unreal. Was wäre wenn die Fotographie auch mehr in die Richtung unrealen gehen würde, so wie das bei Zeichnungen geschah ? Hätte man in so ein Fall mehr Möglichkeiten zur Gestaltung? Du meinst die Fotos so zu manipulieren, dass sie nicht mehr real sind. Die Endausgestaltung nicht unbedingt eins zu eins wiederzugeben. Indem man zum Beispiel das Gewohnte der Fotographie, den Hintergrund und den Rahmen ein bisschen nebensächlicher behandelt. John Hartfield zum Beispiel hat auch viel mit Montage gearbeitet. Er hat dabei auch einige Merkmale der Menschen vergrössert oder verkleinert. Ich glaube im Prinzip kann man


156

natürlich das gleiche machen wie mit der Zeichnung. Es bleibt trotzdem der Unterschied, dass man die Realität ein bisschen konkreter oder näher zeigt als bei der Zeichnung. Im Endeffekt macht es aber keinen Unterschied für mich als Kommunikator ob ich jetzt einen Witz mit einem Foto oder mit einer Zeichnung mache. Für den Empfänger aber ist ein Foto irgendwie realer. Es ist ähnlich wie in der Literatur. Es gibt Schreibweisen, welche man als qualitatve hochwertig empfindet, welche die Realität nicht ganz genau darstellen, aber die Details so beobachten, dass man sich ein eignes Bild machen kann. Dann gibt es ja auch den Schreibstil, wo man alles sehr wissenschaftlich beschreibt. Aber in beiden Fällen ist die Realität eine Interpretation. Der eine geht vielleicht mehr in Richtung Fotographie eine anderer in Richtung Karikatur, aber beide Interpretieren die Realität. Um zum Thema zurück zu kommen. Beide Brauchen einen Leser oder Beobachter der mitspielt, denn ohne unseren eigenen Humor wird ein Bild nicht lustig. Ist es dann mehr eine Geschichte von Kontext, weil es hier einen besseren Kontext hat. Oder mehr die Frage ob etwas real oder unreal ist ? Ich würde sagen beides. Ohne Kontext ohne Hintergrund hat man nicht mehr das Gefühl, dass es nicht mehr real ist. Die Erfahrung die wir machen wenn wir kucken ist, dass Dinge nicht im freien Raum stehen. Wenn wir etwas sehen ist immer auch ein Hintergrund dabei. Es gibt immer mehr Fotographie im Internet. Man kann auch ganz einfach mit neuen Programmen wie Photobooth beim MAC Gesichter verzerren. Kann es sein, dass wie bei den Zeichnungen die Fotographie eine bestimmte Ästhetik oder bestimmtes Schema entwickeln wird ? Oder wird der Bezug zur Realität immer das wichtigste Merkmal bleiben ?

Ich glaube die Mechanismen des Humors wechseln nicht. Die sind in uns genetisch verankert, man bringt sie nicht weg. Was passieren könnte ist, dass die Verbreitung dieser Programme, die alles lustig machen das Lustige langsam abschwächen. Denn wenn ich hundert mal ein verzerrtes Gesicht gesehen ha be i st e s nicht me hr une r wa r tet und schwächt somit den Effekt. Da muss man vielleicht ein bisschen staub drauf lasen und irgendwann kommt es wieder, wenn es nicht erwartet wird. Erwartung ist also ein wichtiger Teil des Humors. Wenn zum Beispiel ein Kind im Zirkus das erste Mal einen Clown sieht ist es für das Kind sehr lustig, wenn der Clown in den Wassereimer fällt. Nach dem 20sten Mal ist es jedoch nicht mehr so lustig. Trotzdem gibt es die Möglichkeit etwas zu sehen, was noch niemand gesehen hat. Oder eine Möglichkeit den Kontext so zu verändern, dass man neue visuell Eindrücke kriegt, die man vorher in ähnlichen Situationen noch nie hatte. Also es besteht Hoffnung, dass uns die Witze nicht ausgehen.


Discussing the topic

Pippo Lionni Artiste Paris, 01.03.2011

Né en 1954 à New York, Pippo Lionni est graphiste, art i s t e , d e s i g n e r. I l a a p p o r t é a u g r a p h i s m e u n e a p p r oc h e c o n c e pt u e l l e, fo r m a l i s é e d a n s d e s sys tè m e s complexes pour la signalétique, la scénographie, ainsi que l’identité visuelle et le design produit. E n 19 9 8 Pi p p o Li o n n i c o m m e n c e s a r é f l ex i o n et s o n travail sur les Facts of Life, un langage symbolique qui interpelle nos perceptions du rire les plus profondes, grâce au détournement de pictogrammes. Lionni nous parle de la vie à travers le langage universel des pictogrammes, dont l’univers cassant et minimaliste nous montre un reflet de la condition humaine. Son travail d’ar tiste a fait l’objet de nombreuses expositions internationales.

Selon mes différentes recherches, l’humour est universel. Chaque personne a un sens de l’humour et utilise l’humour. Pour qu’est-ce que l’humour et pourquoi est-ce qu’il parait aussi important ? Je dirais qu’une des choses qui m’importe dans l’humour est quelque chose qui semble très proche d’une manière de regarder le monde. Et un autre lien que je vois avec l’humour c’est que je regarde souvent les choses à l’envers et je prends ta question à l’envers. Au lieu de dire qu’est-ce l’humour et qu’estce qui le caractérise, je dirais imaginons un monde sans humour. Donc au lieu de demander pourquoi il existe, un monde sans serait terrible donc c’est une première chose fondamentale. Il est là et c’est génial. Il permet de se déplacer ses propos de voir le monde différemment donc en soi cela suffit. Il fait parti de nous et l’humour est différent à cha-

cun de nous. Et ce qui est merveilleux c’est que de temps en temps tu te trouves avec quelqu’un et à un moment donné il se passe quelque chose qui change totalement notre psychologie notre physionomie et on appel cela l’humour. Et je trouve cela fantastique! La question du pourquoi c’est pas important, elle ne m’intéresse pas. C’est sans intérêt. Et je pense que ta position est difficile. Parce que quand tu met tes doigts dans la tarte vont faire que tu vas bousiller le goût de la tarte ou pas! La façon dont tu approches le sujet peut faire que cela soit drôle ou pas du tout drôle. Et cela soulève une autre question fondamentale: ce n’est pas le fait de faire quelque chose, ou dans la vérité mais c’est dans le comment mais pas dans le pourquoi. Tout est sur le comment ? C’est totalement à l’envers de ce que l’on pourrait penser. (…) Selon le dictionnaire Larousse “L’humour est une forme d’esprit qui souligne avec drôlerie les aspects ridicules ou insolites de la réalité”. Ce qui m’a intéressé dans cette définition c’est ce rapport entre l’humour et la réalité. Que pensez-vous de cela? Le rapport à la réalité est-il important? Une des choses qui me semblent proche de l’humour c’est que ce n’est pas une définition, il me semble plutôt que l’humour c’est un déplacement latérale sur la réalité. Il y a un ordre qui s’établit, un moyen de dire des choses et de les percevoir, de se comporter et a un moment on glisse de façon latérale et on voit les choses de façon différente. C’est très proche d’un certain type de réjouissance sexuelle. Les choses basculent à un moment donné. L’humour c’est au même temps une négation de la normalité et une hyper prise en compte de la normalité dans un même moment. (…) Ce ne sont pas les choses qui sont drôles mais notre façon de les vivre qui les rendent drôles, rien est drôle en soi. C’est les circonstances qui les rendent drôles. (...)


158

Je pense que le lien entre la tragédie et la comédie est très importante. Tu ne peux répondre à ta propre question sans toucher à la tragédie. On parle de la perception face à l’humour donc je pense c’est totalement lié à un moment donné, à des gens particuliers donc je pense qu’on ne peux pas faire une formule. On ne peut pas aller dans le générale car c’est uniquement lié à des situations spécifiques. (…) Est-ce que l’humour n’est pas un moyen d’affronter un un quotidien parfois difficile et brutale? Est-ce que ça n’est pa là l’importance de son rapport avec la réalité. Oui. On perçoit totalement cette réalité mais en la regardant sous un autre angle. Enormément d’humour est de l’ordre du ridicule. Tout peux devenir ridicule! Et au même temps tout peut devenir tragique! Donc le lien entre les deux est très important. Si tu regardes les émissions de télé, on faisait rire les gens quand le moment était décidé et venu. Car on ne pouvait pas garantir que les gens trouvent cela drôle. (…) Dans la communication visuelle, la publicité utilise énormément l’humour. Selon vous estce que l’humour apporte quelque chose dans cette communication ? Quand on est content on doit être plus susceptible d’acheter, je ne sais pas. Je connais des gens qui sont plus drôles que d’autres. Personnellement je ne peux pas vivre avec quelqu’un qui n’aurait pas un sens de l’humour que moi je comprends. Est-ce qu’on arrive à rire ensemble ? L’humour peut être lié à des choses totalement différentes, ce glissement de travers fait que tu peux rire avec des gens sans que vous vous compreniez mutuellement sans être de la même langue. Mais est-ce qu’on peut dire que c’est avoir le même humour ? C’est difficile à dire.

Si on se focalise sur l’image, quelles sont les caractéristiques des images humoristiques ? Une chose qui sépare l’humour visuel et imagé de l’humour textuelle c’est la capacité de modifier les éléments que l’on représente. Et j’ai associé cela avec cette réalité de l’humour, de la même manière le dessin permet de réinterpréter dans des formes différentes cette réalité. Donc cela fait partie de la réalité du dessin. Maintenant la question est de savoir qu’est-ce qu’il se passe quand on prend la photographie, une image encore plus proche de la réalité ? Au même temps, à notre époque, le réel de la photographie est très remis en question. J’ai également remarqué que ces photos humoristiques pour la plupart du temps ne sont pas retouchées alors que nous avons les moyens techniques de les retoucher et d’intervenir sur ces images. Qu’en pensez vous ? Pourquoi n’est-elle pas modifié, est-ce que vous-même vous préférer qu’elle ne le soit pas ? Je ne sais pas. Je trouve pas drôle cette photographie. Cela existe les photographies qui sont retouchées et qui sont drôles. Mais peut-être que celle-ci est modifiée! Alors la question est de savoir pourquoi estce qu’on cache cette retouche et qu’on veut faire croire que c’est une photo réelle ? Parce que les gens disent: ça a existé! Donc l’un n’empêche pas l’autre. C’est un faux problème. Je trouve que ce n’est pas très important de savoir comment cela a été fait, nous ne sommes plus dans ces questions de estce que c’est vrai ou pas. L’histoire du “ça s’est vraiment passé”, est-ce que cet impression de réel apporte un effet plus drôle ou est-ce que c’est plus par habitude de voir la photographie sous un certain esthétique? Aujourd’hui c’est un faux problème. La clé c’est le glissement. Tu peux prendre n’im-


Discussing the topic

porte quoi et le fait de faire un glissement Je trouve que dans une certaine façon la tenpeut rendre l’effet ridicule et drôle. C’est le tative de théoriser devient en soi très humofait de changer qui rend le ridicule qui rend la ristique avec tous ces termes! C’est si fondachose plus drôle. Que ce passe-t-il quand tu mental que tout cette contextualisation est fais une modification ? une comédie. L’acte de théoriser tout cela devient une comédie. Dans une certaine faPour voir comment les gens réagissent par çon tu as prouvé à toi même le ridicule de la rapport à une intervention humoristique, j’ai théorisation du sujet. Et que cela ne ser t fait le test sur plusieurs personnes de mélan- strictement à rien! D’ailleurs je ne comprends ger et changer cer taines photos humoris- pas ce que vient faire la théorie en design. Je tiques. Et l’idée était de voir la réaction des comprends pour l’histoire de l’art mais sinon gens sans changer le contenu informatif, c’est une contradiction en soi. Tu pourrais l’objet qui est drôle reste là et visible, par montrer comment on perçoit l’humour mais il contre on change la qualité esthétique et ico- est ridicule de dire pourquoi il existe. (…) nographique de l’image. En général, les gens La théorisation en soi c’est un exercice très choisissent la photographie non changée important qui ne sert à rien. Le problème comme étant la plus drôle. Dans un sondage c’est que tu as essayé d’étudier un domaine plus qualitatif les gens expliquent ce choix non académique par des méthodes acadéavec l’argument “ça c’est vraiment passé”. Et miques et il ne peut être que frustrant car il quand on pose la question de savoir pour- n’a pas de moyen. C’est uniquement un exerquoi l’autre est la moins drôle ils l’expliquent cice comme celui de jouer aux échecs. Tu par le fait que “c’est au milieu de rien”. Est-ce essai de toucher quelque chose de fondaqu’il n’y a donc pas une certaine convention mentalement humain avec la théorie et cela esthétique dans la photographie ? ne rime à rien. Mais d’un autre côté cela peut Je ne sais pas. J’ai l’impression que tu es- être un exposé très drôle. saies de faire de la science avec quelque chose qui n’est pas “scienceable”. Tu essaies de savoir quelque chose que tu ne peux pas savoir avec une formule de savoir pourquoi c’est drôle ou pas drôle. Est-ce que tu as essayé par le contraire et demander aux gens qu’est-ce qui est drôle ? On pense que c’est spécifique à des personnes c’est intéressant de demander cela aux gens tu pourrait avoir un aperçu. À travers cela je suis arrivé à la conclusion que c’est compliqué car trop de paramètres entrent en compte. L’humour est trop spécifique aux gens, la seule chose que l’on peut faire c’est essayer. L’idée aurait été comme dernière étape d’envoyer une même photo à différentes personnes et de leur demander d’intervenir dessus et voir ce qu’ils en font.


160

engagé politiquement. Le problème quand vous êtes engagé politiquement, c’est que vous pouvez rire de tout sauf de votre propre parti, vous avez de la peine à vous moquer de votre côté. (...)

Mix & Remix

Press and Cartoon Illustrator Lausanne, 13.01.2011

Mix et Remix, de son vrai nom Philippe Becquelin, est u n d e s s i n a t e u r d e p r e s s e e t d e t é l év i s i o n d ’o r i g i n e suisse, né en 1958 à Saint-Maurice, en Valais. Il r éali s e c h aq u e s ema i n e pou r L’H e b do d es d es s i n s humoristiques sur des sujets d’actualité. Ses dessins sont également publiés dans le journal français Courrier international et l’Internazionale en Italie. Il par ticipe à Siné Hebdo depuis le premier numéro et interv i e n t d a n s l ’é m i s s i o n I n f r a r o u g e s u r l a Té l é v i s i o n suisse romande.

Qu’est-ce que pour vous l’humour ? En tout cas moi comme je travail, mon humour à moi c’est pour désamorcer les choses. Y’a deux choses, c’est pour montrer un autre point de vue, que tout peut être humoristique quand même. C’est un peu aussi ma démarche, j’essaie de rire un peu de tout quand même. Et puis c’est aussi pour, bon ben c’est le truc, faut pas trop se prendre au sérieux quoi, c’est ça un peu la base de la chose. Moi j’essaie toujours de prendre les choses avec humour, j’essaie dans la plupart des cas et puis bon, après c’est devenu un job comme ça. Mais, à quoi sert l’humour, l’humour sert à faire rire les gens, y a que ça quoi. Et après je pense que le but, en tout cas moi en tant que dessinateur de presse, je cherche plus à faire rire les gens plutôt qu’à faire passer un message ou à faire réfléchir. Ça fait partie des grandes émotions le rire.

Et quand vous parlez de rire de tout, est-ce que vous pensez que vous pouvez vraiment aborder tous les thèmes ? J’essaie d’aborder tous les thèmes, après il faut avoir une sorte de feeling parce que je n’ai pas non plus comme but d’être un provocateur continuel, j’essaie d’être drôle et j’essaie d’être drôle sur tous les sujets. Et si je n’arrive pas à être drôle, si c’est trop lourd, je ne le fais pas. Le problème généralement quand les gens se fâchent, c’est que c’est un peu raté. Le problème de l’humour c’est ça, quand ça tombe à côté c’est une catastrophe. Par rapport ce qu’est l’humour, j’ai regardé quelques définitions et le dictionnaire Larousse définit l’humour comme étant une “forme d’esprit qui cherche à mettre en valeur avec drôlerie le caractère ridicule, insolite ou absurde de certains aspects de la réalité”. Haha, C’est exactement ça! Ils sont bons chez Larousse!

Ce qui m’a intéressé dans cette définition c’était le rapport entre l’humour et la réalité… que pensez-vous de cette association ? Oui je pense que c’est juste. Moi je prends pas la réalité mais ce que les médias en font. C’est le commentaire de la réalité, et j’essaie de faire un petit switch, de retourner la chaussette un peu, pour dire ouais mais bon, qu’est ce qu’on nous raconte ? Parce qu’il y a quand même des priorités dans les infos, on a pas tous les mêmes infos, etc. Je trouve intéressant le point où vous dites Et autrement l’autre humour, l’humour baqu’il faut pouvoir rire de tout. sique, le cartoon ou les trucs comme ça, j’en Moi, j’essaie en tout cas de rire de tout. C’est fais aussi, c’est du gag vraiment classique. pour ça que je ne suis pas un dessinateur Ça c’est un humour plutôt absurde, ça a des


Discussing the topic

personnages fictifs, ça peut être historique, ça peut avoir des hommes des cavernes, mais c’est aussi toujours avec cette sorte de moteur d’absurde. Et puis l’humour, que ça soit dans le dessin de presse ou dans l’humour classique, c’est toujours aussi un peu faire ressortir les défauts qui font rire. C’està-dire la prétention, le fait d’y croire ou les choses comme ça.

une sorte de cap, ils étaient très identifiables. Maintenant ils ressemblent à des sortes de sportifs avec une casquette de baseball. Les télévisons, les ordinateurs, tout est devenu plat, y’a plus rien à dessiner. Donc déjà ça, ça a changé et puis l’humour évolue, je pense que l’humour du début du siècle ça ne fait plus rire personne. Les années 60 avaient un assez haut niveau en humour, mais il y avaient des problèmes qu’il n’y a plus maintenant. Par exemple la moitié des gags étaient sur la libération sexuelle et maintenant ce sujet c’est fini, c’est plus d’actualité. Mais on s’en rend pas forcément compte, c’est tellement au jour le jour l’évolution, par exemple mes dessins évoluent sans que je m’en rende compte. Je peux plus regarder des personnages que j’ai fait il y a trois ans en arrière, c’est plus le même trait. (...) Je pense que rire pour les gens c’est vital.

Et comment diriez vous que l’humour est présent dans votre vie ? Bon ben moi j’aime bien plaisanter, je suis plutôt tout le temps tourner vers l’humour. J’essaie toujours de m’amuser mais c’est vrai que c’est aussi un job pour moi, donc je suis tout le temps dans la recherche de gags. Mais c’est devenu un job parce que j’en avais envie. J’ai toujours fait du dessin, j’ai toujours fait des gags et j’ai toujours aimé plaisanter. Et le truc bien de ce job, c’est qu’on trouve toujours quelque chose. Pourquoi à votre avis ? Je pense que l’humour aide à supporter pas Surtout dans la presse, il y a toujours des mal de choses. Peut-être pas avoir de l’huthèmes pour rebondir. mour mais le rire ça aide quand même. Je Oui, il y a toujours des thèmes pour rebondir pense que dans les pays où ils se font vraimais en fin de compte c’est quand même ment chier ils sont contents de rire un peu. toujours les mêmes qui reviennent tout le Puis il y a souvent des bons gags, je sais pas, temps. Je remarque, maintenant ça fait un en Iran, en Afghanistan, je pense que sur les peu plus de dix ans que je fais du dessin de forces américaines ils doit y avoir 150’000 presse sérieusement, et bon c’est tout le gags. Je pense que ça aide à relativiser un temps la même chose. C’est rare qu’il y ait un peu, et même si tout va bien ça fait toujours événement spectaculaire. (...) plaisir de rire un peu. (...) Et vous verriez une raison pour laquelle ce type d’humour ne fonctionne plus de nos jours, ou pourquoi l’humour est sans cesse en train d’évoluer ? Je pense que l’humour est quand même attaché à l’époque dans laquelle il est fait. Maintenant ce que je remarque c’est que pour le dessin ça devient difficile de dessiner des objets, ils ne ressemblent plus à rien. Avant, dans les années 60, les flics avaient un képi,

Une particularité de l’image humoristique qui est mise en avant dans les études est le fait qu’elle a la capacité de communiquer beaucoup de détails simultanément. Exactement, c’est ça l’avantage du dessin. Le dessin doit être capté tout de suite, ça doit être très rapide. Si vous commencé à vous demander mais qu’est-ce qu’il a voulu dire, qu’est-ce que ça représente, c’est foutu. C’est pour ça que c’est toujours difficile de


162

passer d’un dessin humoristique à un dessin animé. Le dessin humoristique communique tout, tout de suite alors que dans le dessin animé les personnages parlent et tout se ralenti. Et c’est l’horreur parce que la chute qu’on se prend en pleine gueule tout de suite dans le dessin humoristique, on la voit arriver et on se dit ça risque d’être ça et c’est toujours ça au final.

tout de suite qu’il ne faut pas les prendre au sérieux. Bon, à part les chrétiens intégristes, quand on dessine Jésus avec un gros nez, ben ça les gêne, c’est sûr. Mais autrement ça désamorce tout. C’est justement ce point qui m’a intéressé dans la photographie humoristique. Elle n’a, à premier abord, pas cette esthétique visuelle connotée d’humour. Par contre son esthétique à la particularité d’être très proche de celle que l’on perçoit de notre réalité. Pensez vous que cette impression de réel peut rendre l’humour photographique plus for t que celui du dessin ? Je ne sais pas. La photographie humoristique c’est plus des situations cocasses. Et c’est pas mal du hasard aussi de tomber sur ces situations, tandis que dans le dessin il faut créer les situations.

Une autre particularité mise en avant dans mon travail est que à travers l’image humoristique on peut réinterpréter l’aspect original des objets pour les rendre plus ludique. C’est ça le top du dessin. C’est que vous pouvez faire n’importe quoi. Moi je déforme aussi parce que je fais encore les millionnaires avec des hauts de forme et des cigares comme on les dessinait en 1900. Et les flics aussi. Les prisonniers je les faits avec les costumes à rayures. En faite je ne colle jamais à la réalité. Si c’est une réalité, c’est Mais il y a aussi des photos mises en scène. plutôt des symboles et c’est vrai que là vous Oui il y a aussi beaucoup de mise en scène. pouvez faire ce que vous voulez. Dans ce cadre il y a des idées et les idées sont photographiques. Pensez-vous que le faite de pouvoir jouer avec augmente le potentiel humoristique ? D’après les résultats de mon classement de Oui parce qu’on peut tellement faire du cli- photographies humoristiques, ça se fait peu ché. C’est ça qui est bien aussi. Et plus c’est et quand les photos sont retravaillées elles cliché, plus c’est gros, plus c’est drôle. Il me essaient d’imiter au mieux la réalité. semble en tout cas. Bon, moi je pars pas non Il y a un nouveau journal satirique qui s’est plus dans des fantasmagories d’un autre uni- lancé à Zürich, super trash, et ils ne prennent vers ou des choses comme ça. C’est la réa- pas de dessins de presse car ils trouvent que lité, mais c’est la réalité hyper simplifiée. c’est chichiteux, que c’est intello. Et du coup ils font tout avec de la photo montages et des Il y a des études qui avancent que l’esthé- trucs comme ça et c’est 100 fois plus effitique particulière des dessins humoristique cace, parce que c’est plus hard core. leur donne une connotation qui fait que le lecteur comprend qu’il a à faire à de l’humour Donc pour vous il y aurait une possibilité avant même de décrypter l’image. dans cette direction. Oui c’est sûr, c’est un peu une pancarte “at- Je pense oui, mais je ne pense pas que l’hutention humour”. C’est pour ça que je n’ai pas mour photographique va remplacer le dessin trop d’ennuis avec mes dessins. Ils sont telle- de presse, c’est quand même un autre outil. ment ridicules que les gens comprennent Mais c’est un outil efficace.


Discussing the topic

meaning and – maybe most important – have to be resolved in a playful way (at least partially). That means that they have to make partially sense.

Andrea Samson

Humor researcher Interview via email, 14.04.2011

Presently a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford Universit y, Andrea Samson is behind a number of researches and publicat ions on t he subject of humor such as Visual punning: merely analogical description or similar pseudological mechanism? (2 0 07) or Car toons: Drawn Jokes? (20 08).

According to studies, humor is a phenomenon that has always been a part of mankind and seems to be essential. So my first question is what is humor for you ? When I answer the question as a humor researcher, humor is an umbrella term for many laughter related phenomena, fulfills many inter- and intrapersonal functions as it seems essential in social relationships, as mood enhancer, as emotion regulation strategy … For me personally, humor is very important in everyday life. It is very rewarding to smile or laugh about the same or at least similar things together with other people. The Larousse dictionary defines humor as “the act of underlining with drollery the unusual, absurd or ridiculous aspects of our reality”. What do you think of the relation between humor and reality ? In ever y humorous element, the reality is somewhat distor ted. This is called incongruity in certain humor theories. However, the incongruity has to fulfill certain criteria to be able to be perceived as humorous or amusing. Depending on humorous theories, they have to be perceived as benign violations, have to be in a relevant opposition to another

How is humor present in your every day life ? I think (and hope) its present every day. Most often in interaction with other people - situational humor and jokes. Also at work, humor is important. Among the various places where we find humor, the field (visual) communication is very present. For example in advertisement, newspapers, marketing, etc... In your opinion, why does humor have so much success in the fields of communication ? It is a rewarding type of communication. The attention is probably drawn by a joke or a funny idea more strongly than by a boring adve r tise me nt. Howeve r, I a m not sure whether the funniness of an advertisement leads to more frequent purchases than a boring advertisement. Among the different forms of humor, my thesis concentrates on motionless images. According to my studies, one specificity of humorous images is that they are capable of communicating a big amount of details at the same time. And the original aspect of the elements can be modified to make them look funnier. In your opinion, why is it that the modification of the original aspect of an element can make it look funnier ? It is known that exaggeration and distortion like in caricatures have a comic effect. You can find examples of this already in ancient decorative art forms (Egyptian, Roman and Greek iconography). Distortions, deviance, anomalies, however, do not lead to amusement in every case, but can also be bewildering, confusing or frightening, depending on the interpreter.


164

In my thesis, I concentrate on a specific type of humorous images that has become very popular: Humorous Photography. What interests me is that its image is very close to the one we have of our own reality. A part of my thesis consisted in the classification and analysis of 1000 humorous photographs. I noticed that the aspect of the different elements in humorous photographs are practically never modified. That sounds interesting – I would love to have a look at your stimulus material An interesting point is that now a days the fact of a photography being representative of reality is strongly questioned. The visual similarity to reality would therefore not be a reason why there is so little modification of the elements in a humorous photograph. I think each medium works with its best means – in the sense that a cartoonist who is mainly working with simple lines – is more attempted to distort “forms”, another “humorous” painter/car toonist who is not only playing with shapes but also with colors – has more/other options to create humorous effects. While humorous drawings/cartoons are obviously not representing the real world, photographs are more closely related to what our eye sees in “reality”. It might have a negative effect if someone would manipulate photographs by editing the picture in a too obvious way – it might affect the credibility and might seem dilettantish. Therefore, humorous photographs play with other means. I think your finding is interesting, however, I would have to see your material to say more. To understand this phenomenon, I did a test in which I compared a humorous photograph with modified versions of the same photography. A sur vey showed that the more the image would be close to the original version, the more the participants would indicate it as

the funniest. On the contrary, the more the image would be modified, the more the participants would indicate it as the least funny. What do you think of these results ? It might have something to do with the credibility of the photography. Furthermore, I do not think that each distortion leads to more amusement. It depends on the “meaning” a n d s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h e d i s to r ti o n. Fo r example, a bigger nose or bigger ears can be associated with certain characteristics that you ascribe to a person. However, if you simply change the color of a picture, then this might simply be not joke relevant as the color might not have a par ticular message or meaning in the context. It depends on the scripts you are playing with. Are you surprised or do you find it logic ? Do you see a possible evolution in the graphic form of humorous photography ? I am sure that there are developments in what is seen as modern, up-to-date or what is the spirit of the time. However, the mechanisms behind – what makes a picture humorous – is universal in the sense that it is not depending on the zeitgeist.


Discussing the topic

Anette Gehrig

Leiterin des Cartoon Museum Basel Basel, 31.01.2011

S t u d i e r t e Ku l t u r w i s s e n s c h a f t e n i n Z ü r i c h u n d b e e n dete ihr Studium mit einer museologischen Arbeit und d er E r a r b eitu ng ei n es Konzeptes fü r d i e N eu au srichtung der Nidwaldner Museen in Stans. Sie arbeitete als Projek t mit arbeiterin am St apferhaus in Lenzburg und zulet zt als Kuratorin mehrerer Ausstellungen am Schweizerischen Alpinen Museum in Bern. Anette Gehrig leitet seit 20 08 das “Car toonmuseum Basel” u n d k u r a t i e r t e d o r t u . a . d i e Au s s t e l l u n g e n “ S e m p é”, “Erotik”, “Anna Sommer & Noyau”, “Kontrastprogramm” und “Wor tbilder. Comics aus China”.

In meinem Recherche ist es herausgekommen, dass Humor ein wichtiger teil für den Menschen ist. Was ist ihre Meinung dazu, warum ist Humor so wichtig ? Was ist überhaupt Humor ? Was spielt Humor für eine Rolle im Alltag und für die Menschheit ? Ich denke Humor hat sehr viel mit der Auseinander setzung mit einem Thema zu tun. Diese Auseinandersetzung passiert im Alltag analytisch. Mit Humor versuchen die Künstler quasi noch eine gewisse Distanzierung zu machen. Das Thema auf den Punkt bringen und gleichzeitig auch distanzieren. Man kann sich so auch von ersten Dingen. Humor ist nicht gleich Humor und ernste Dinge sind manchmal auch oft nahe am Humor. Also nimmt man durch Humor gewisse Dinge auch weniger seriös ? Ja, manchmal nimmt man dann durch Humor etwas nicht mehr so ernst. Wenn man ja alles ernst nehmen würde, kann das einem ziemlich auf die Seele drücken. Von dem her kann Humor quasi auch vieles relativieren.

Ich habe mal nach den Definitionen von Humor gesucht und habe viele verschiede Definitionen gefunden. Eine Definition die ich besonders interessant gefunden habe war in einem französisch Wörterbuch. Dort heisst es: Humor ist eine Art wie man die Realität oder das Ungewöhnliche mit Witz unterstreicht. Was mich hier interessiert ist dieser Bezug zwischen unserer Realität und Humor. Sehen sie hier auch einen Bezug zu dieser Distanzierung zur Realität ? Genau. Manchmal sind es aber auch alltägliche Dinge. Die sind dann so real aber wenn man es genauer anschaut sind sie komisch oder absurd. Ich glaube das ist dann ein Humor der nicht eine Analyse macht um ein bestimmtes politisches Geschehen das s i ch zu spit z t, sonde r n da s i st e ine Be trachtung von einem Moment, Gegenstand oder einer Situation, die an sich komisch oder absurd ist. Wobei es eigentlich aus dem Alltag herausfallt. Wenn man gewisse Dinge jedoch einzeln betrachtet können diese einem komisch vorkommen, besodners wenn man sich nicht Gedanken darüber macht. Weil man sich nie Gedanken macht. Oder weil man einfach nicht will. Man könnte diesen Teil der Realität auch ohne Humor betrachten, ohne Skurrilität. Stilleben ist ein wichtiger Aspekt der Malerei. Zum Teil sind die Kompositionen so komisch, dass sie natürlich eine symbolische Bedeutung haben. Zum Beispiel im 18 Jhr. haben viele auch verschlüsselt gesagt, was man anders nicht sagen konnte. Wenn man die Dinger nebeneinander anschaut, dann sind die an sich komisch. Zum Beispiel die Assoziation zwischen einem Damenschuh und ein Damenhirn. Dieses Skurrile ist aber nicht ein herzhaftes lachen, sondern eher ein Lachen in der Betrachtung. Man überlegt sich etwas dazu und beginnt zu lachen.


166

Aber zum Beispiel hier, gibt es eine zweite Bedeutung dazu ? Oder ist es eigentlich nur diese Idee von Absurdität ? Absurdität zeigen, klar. Das zeigt auch, dass die Bedeutungen auch zeitbedingt funktionieren und sie demnach auch so gelesen werden müssen. Es zeigt aber auch, das mit kleinen Dingen unmögliche Kombinationen herstellen kann. Humor ist wichtig in der Visuelle Kommunikation, Kunst, Werbung, Fernsehen etc. Im Bild der Kommunikation gibt es oft Humor drin. Ein humorvolles Bild kann ja zum Beispiel Kunst sein, wenn es eine Karikatur ist. Meinen sie, dass Humor dem Bild etwas bringt oder dass das Gegenteil zutrifft ? Und meinen sie, dass Humor durch Bildern besser kommuniziert werden kann ? Sicherlich kann Humor auch anders funktionieren. Humor ist aber auch kultur- oder raumbezogen. Es gibt viele Beispiele dafür die zeigen, dass es auch funktionieren kann. Was fällt ihnen ein, wenn wir zum Beispiel visuellen Humor mit hörbarem Humor oder geschrieben Humor vergleichen ? Da kann natürlich über die Darstellung auch vieles verborgen werden. Man kann sich auch an den Humor herantasten. Das finde ich auch interessant am Humor, dass man sich fragen kann, wann es überhaupt anfängt komisch zu werden. Ab wann ist Humor absurd, makaber, satirisch etc. Alle diese unterschiedlichen Schattierungen sind natürlich interessant. Ich denke in der visuellen Kunst kann man das wunderbar machen. Zum Beispiel in der Karikatur darf man nicht zu viel verbergen, die Botschaft muss klar sein. Damit eine Karikatur auch wirklich funktioniert muss der Humor mit einer gewissen Zurückhaltung verborgen werden. Die visuelle Kunst ist auch dafür geeignet mit ganz subtilen Mitteln zu arbeiten.

Ich habe während meine Recherche erfunden, das man mit diesen Formen spielen kann und man sehr viele Details auf einmal kommunizieren kann, was zum Beispiel im Text nicht möglich ist. Wenn ich zum Beispiel eine lustige Illustration textlich wiedergeben müsste wird sich das nicht so lustig anhören. Man kann auch mit den verschiedenen Aspekten im Bild spielen. Ja ich finde diese Vereinfachungen sind sehr wichtig beim Humor. Man kann also mit einer minimalistischen Zeichnung sehr viel Humor erzeuge. Humor kann also auch sehr subtil sein. Es gibt ja auch noch Maler, die humorvolle Malerei betreiben. Jetzt, um auf die Definition des Humors in Verbindung mit der Realität zurückzukommen. Sehen sie eine Möglichkeit wie man mit Bildern diese Realität ändern kann. Zum Beispiel die Nase vergrössern oder vereinfachen. Die Definition von Humor sagt ja eigentlich, dass Humor den komischen Aspekt der Realität mit Witzigkeit zeigt. Sehen sie in Bildern irgendeine Stärke, weil sie die Realität verzerren können ? Man muss natürlich immer raffiniert sein, und Lust haben dranzubleiben. Das Verzerren, Übertreiben oder Überladen ist eine Möglichkeit, wobei man Humor auch mit unterschiedlichen Schattierungen erzeugen kann. Dazu eignet sich das Bild natürlich sehr gut. Ich beschäftige mich auch mit der humoristischen Fotographie, weil es ein neues Medium ist für Humor repräsentiert. Das interessante an Fotos ist, dass sie einen sehr hohen Bezug zur Realität haben. Haben Sie bei der humoristischen Fotographie Änderungen gesehen sowie bei Zeichnungen ? In den 80er oder 70er Jahren hat ja die neue Frankfurter Schule dazu verholfen, dass man eine andere Art von Humor findet. Die Themen damals waren noch Moralisierung und


Discussing the topic

Offenheit. Da gibt es natürlich immer wieder neue Ideen oder Leute die neues hineinbringen wollen. Ob das mit der Fotographie zusammenhängt weiss ich nicht. Es hat sicher auch damit zu tun, dass die Leute genug haben immer nur lange Nasen zu zeichnen. Man will weiter experimentieren. Ich glaube der Minimalismus hat ja vor allem in den 90er Jahren einen Einfluss gehabt. Es war also ein Überfluss da und man wollte etwas anderes. Man kommt weg von der klassischen Form von Karikaturen. Das Zeichnen von Comics ist ja sehr viel variabler geworden als das Zeichnen von Karikaturen. Wobei letzteres auch an Bedeutung verloren hat.

In Ihre Antwort sprechen Sie von der Unterschied zwischen Humor und Witz. Ich verstehe schon Ihre Bemerkung und das Wichtigkeit die Unterschiede zu berücksichtigen. In meine Arbeit basiere ich mich auf verschiedene Büchern die Humor als ein Prozess definieren. Nach diese Büchern kann diese Prozess durch sehr verschiedenen “Humor Techniken” wie Witz, Satire, Sarkasmus, Ironie, Schwarze Humor, usw. erzeugt sein. Wenn ich von ein humoristische Bild spreche, meine ich eigentlich alle die Bilder die ein Inhalt haben der die Humor Prozess erzeugt. Was meinen Sie dazu? Macht diese Vorangehensweise für Ihnen Sinn? Ich denke Sie können schon Humor als GeEin Teil meine Arbeit war die visuelle Form samtes definieren ... die Rezeption der unvon humoristische Fotografie zu analysieren. terschiedlichen Formen wird allerdings sehr Ich habe bemerkt, dass es sehr wenigen hu- unterschiedlich sein. moristische Fotografien gibt indem die originell Aspekt von Elementen modifiziert sind. In der Rahm die humoristische Fotografie Was denken Sie zu diese Resultate ? Meinen finde ich interessant wann Sie sagen, dass Sie, dass diese Ähnlichkeit zu Realität ein beim Humor die Ähnlichkeit bzw. Realität weEinfluss auf Humor hat ? niger im Vordergrund steht. Das würde beZuerst müsste man Humor und Witz als un- deuten, dass die visuelle Ähnlichkeit zwisterschiedliche Begriffe betrachten. chen eine Fotografie und unsere Realität Humor hat immer etwas Grossartiges, Erha- auch nicht in Vordergrund des humoristische benes, das zum Beispiel der Witz nicht hat. Effekt steht. Diese Ähnlichkeit wäre also kein Der Witz ist selbstgefällig, plump und un- Grund um das denotative Form des humoriskontrolliert. Humor will Reflexion oder Kritik. tische Fotografie nicht zu Bearbeiten. Witz ist dem Lachen verbundener und das Sehen Sie andere Gründen warum die denoLustvolle steht mehr im Vordergrund. Ich tative Form des humoristische Fotografie so glaube, dass beim Humor die Ähnlichkeit wenig bearbeitet ist ? bzw. Realität weniger im Vordergrund steht. Dass bisher sehr wenig über Humor in der Aber es braucht sie, damit man sich übe- Kunst publiziert wurde liegt vor allem auch rhaupt mit dem Bild in Beziehung setzen daran, dass sich die Kunstgeschichte diesem kann bzw. eine Verschiebung erkennen kann. Thema immer nur am Rande gewidmet hat. Humoristen verschieben ja oft Bedeutungen Das Thema Humor wurde von unterschiedliund Objek te, die man also kennen muss. chen Disziplinen wie Geschichte und KultuBeim Witz verschieben sich diese Bindungen ranthropologie thematisiert. Die Disziplin der daran sehr wild, beim Humor viel, viel sensiti- Fotografie ist an sich sehr jung, ich glaube es ver und feiner. Ähnlichkeit und Denotation liegt vor allem daran, dass man sich der husind ein wichtiger Aspekt, damit Witz und moristischen Seite noch nicht gewidmet hat... Humor funktionieren.


Chapter 8

Breaking conventions This study has consisted in approaching the question of how the graphic structure of a humorous image influences its effect. With the example of the visualization of a man falling down the stairs, it was first put forward that one of the main particularities of graphic structure was its capability of nuancing the context displayed in the image without altering the content. In other words, the graphic structure has the possibility of defining the statement of an image. Later on, the comparison between text and image in the framework of humor revealed that because images communicate all the elements of the content simultaneously and let the reciever analyse them at his rate, they could display more details than texts. It was then put forward that images had the possibility of influencing the visual aspect of these details by representing the elements or concepts through different iconicity levels. In other words, images can modify the visual aspect an element has in reality without for it to lose its initial meaning. The particularity of being able to modify the iconicity level of the elements revealed the possibility of reinterpreting the visual aspect of these elements so as to make them look more incongruous and therefore intensify the ridiculous aspect of reality. This implied that the graphic structure of an image doesn’t only have the possibility to vary on an iconicity scale, it can also vary on what was called an incongruity scale. In this framework, the study introduced the notion of incongruity redundancy, which describes the cases in which the incongruity given to the graphic structure is not used to create humor but to intensify an existing humorous content. Through incongruity redundancy, the graphic structure influences the statement of a humorous image by presenting a context in which the ridiculous aspects of reality are intensified. The apparent correlation between humor and reality in the framework of humorous images led the study to concentrate on the specific field of humorous photography. If incongruity redundancy consists in modifying the original aspect of reality, how is it ap-


170

plicable to a case such as photography in which the appearance of the graphic structure is quasi identical to the one of this reality ? The collection and classification of 1000 humorous photographs put forward that there was no apparent form of incongruity redundancy in the medium. This led to the hypothesis that a humorous photograph’s high iconicity can provoke an impression of reality that is essential to the humorous response. In order to verify the relevance of the impression of reality in humorous photography, the study created image sequences in which the original version of a humorous photograph was compared to a series of versions in which the graphic structure had been more or less modified. The sequences were then submitted to a quantitative and qualitative survey, in which the participants were asked to designate the funniest and the least funny image of each sequence. The results of the survey allowed to highlight two main particularities concerning the graphic structure of humorous photography. The first was that the impression of reality seems to be an essential factor in the framework of humorous photography. And the second was that photography displays a certain amount of visual conventions that are delicate to break. Considering these outcomes, it is possible to suggest an approach as to why there seems to be no presence of incongruity redundancy in humorous photography. As it was put forward in this study, incongruity redundancy is mainly the result of an alternation of the visual appearance of elements. This implies that it will engender a modification of the level of iconicity of the image. Now the variation of the level of iconicity could be precisely the reason why there is no presence of incongruity redundancy in humorous photography. As it came forward in the last experiment, the high iconicity level of humorous photography seems to be essential because of its particularity of giving an impression of reality. It seems therefore difficult to add incongruity redundancy to humorous photography as it will alter its high level of iconicity and might interfere with the impression of reality. If the absence of incongruity redundancy is due to the fact that the modification of the visual appearance of elements alters the impression of reality of a humorous photography, it could be interesting to approach the question of the possibility of creating incongruity redundancy in a way that doesn’t alter the iconicity level of the photograph. The results of the survey put forward that some of the graphic interventions had been disturbing not because they altered the level of iconicity but because they didn’t correspond to


Breaking conventions

an apparent visual convention in the field of photography. If we consider that visual conventions are due to habit and that habits change and evolve over time, it is legitimate to believe that the solution to integrating incongruity redundancy in photography might lie in the breaking of its visual conventions. Of course, experimenting a way of inserting incongruity redundancy in humorous photography through the breaking of its visual conventions deploys a number of possibilities, each of which could represent a new subject of study. This study will conclude by shortly approaching one of these possibilities in order to give an idea of the direction such an experiment could take. Among the different graphic interventions of the experience of chapter seven, the intervention named Reduction led to an interesting observation. Gradually removing the elements of the background resulted in an image in which the main subjects of the humorous photograph stood in the middle of a white background and this was considered as disturbing. If one of the reasons can be that the background is important for the context of the image, another aspect came up when a participant stated that the remaining elements were in the middle of nothing. This comment seems to indicate the presence of visual convention concerning the frame of a photograph. Indeed, traditional photography automatically represents every element that was in the camera’s sight at the moment it was triggered. Due to the mechanisms of the camera and the conventional ways of transcribing the image on paper or other media, we are used to seeing a photograph contained inside a frame that conventionally has a rectangular shape. This frame is seen as the limit of what is considered as the photographic image or, in other words, the graphic representation of a subject. Everything outside this frame will not be interpreted as being part of the photograph. Indeed, the a photograph represents only a fragment of the reality that was in front of the camera. However, the shape that will delimite the fragment is absolutely not relevant for the impression of reality. Now if we consider that the shape of a photograph’s frame is rectangular only because of mechanical and production conventions, then it seems legitimate to state that the frame of a photograph can theoretically display any shape as long as the high iconicity level of the graphic structure it contains isn’t altered. Now if the shape of this frame can be modified, it should be possible to adapt its shape so as for it to take part in the statement of the humorous content and thus create a form of incongru-


172


Breaking conventions

ity redundancy. For example, if the frame is given the shape of a graphic symbol, the signification of this symbol will influence the the way the reciever will interpret the photograph. In other words, the shape of the frame is another possibility for the graphic structure to influence the statement of an image. Therefore, if the shape of the frame is able to highlight the humorous content of a photograph, we can consider that incongruity redundancy is possible in humorous photography. Of course, developing this subject would require approaching more deeply parameters such as the concept of frame and its implications or the significations communicated by graphic symbols and their correlation to cultural and personal interpretation. However, because humor is greatly subject to personal taste, it seems that even with the most profound research theorizing the phenomenon will never attain unanimous agreement. Considering this from the point of view of a graphic designer, it is interesting to question if there might not be a point from which it is more relevant to approach humor through the process of visual creation and experimentation. Therefore, this study will conclude by proposing a couple examples of how the frame of a humorous photograph can be modified in the aim of giving it the funtion of highlighting the photograph’s humorous content.


How can the frame of a photography influence its context?


176


Breaking conventions


178


Breaking conventions


180


Breaking conventions


References Falardeau Mira, 1976 L’humour visuel: histoire et technique, caricature, bande dessinée, dessin animé. Québec: Vlb Editeur. Feuerhahn Nelly, 1993 Traits d’imper tinence, Histoire et chefsd’œuvre du dessin d’humour de 1914 à nos jours. Farigliano (IT ): Milanostampa.

Literature

Literature and studies

Attardo Salvatore, 1994 Linguistic theories of humor. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter. (Original work published in 1962). Behrens, Roy R., 1977 Beyond Caricature: On Types of Humor in Ar t. Journal of Creative Behavior, 11, 3, 165-75.

Frey tag Gustav, 2008 Technique of the Drama: An E xposition of Dramatic Composition and Ar t. MacEwan Elias J. ( Trans.). South Carolina: Biblioba zaar. (Originally published 1863). Harper Lee, 2010 Bloom’s Guides, To kill a mocking bird. New York: Infobase Publishing. Heller Steven, 2002 Design Humor: the ar t of graphic wit. New York: Allwor th Press.

Berger Ar thur A., 1998 An Anatomy of Humor. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Hempelmann C., & Samson A., 2008 Car toons: Drawn Jokes ? In V. Raskin (Ed.), The Primer of Humor Research (609 – 640). Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruy ter.

Bergson Henri, 1980 Laughter, An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hobbes Thomas, 1840 Human Nature, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbur y, Vol. IV. London: J. Bohn.

Bar thes Roland, 1980 La chambre claire, Note sur la photographie. France, Paris: Gallimard.

Hurley Dennis, 2010 Humor, Marketing and the Internet: How technological change has given humor renewed purpose. DDB Worldwide Communications Groupe, The Yellow Paper Series. Retrieved 26.05.2010, from http://w w w.scribd.com/doc/299022 79/DDB-Yellow-Paper-Impor tance-of-Humour-in-Marketing.

Bourdieu P., Boltanski L., 1965 Sous la direction de Pierre Bourdieu, Un ar t moyen, essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit. Chapman A. J. & Foot H. C., 2007 Humor and laughter: theor y, research, and applications. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. (Originally published in 1976). Davies Christie, 1990 Ethnic Humor Around The World. Indiana University Press.

Klein Sheri, 2007 Ar t and laughter. London, England: I.B. Tauris & Company, Limited. Kant Immanuel, 1987 Critique of Judgment. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company (Original work published in 1951).

Dubois Philippe, 1990 L’acte photographique. France, Paris: Éditions Nathan.

Koller Mar vin R., 1988 Humor and society. E xplorations in the sociology of humor. Houston: Cap and Gown Press Inc.

Escarpit Rober t, 1960 L’Humour. France: Presses Universitaires de France.

Kuipers Giselinde, 2006 Good Humor, Bad Taste. A sociology of the joke. Berlin: Mouton de Gruy ter.


184 Lewis Paul, 1989 Comic ef fects: interdisciplinar y approaches to humor in literature. Albany: The State University of New York Press. Lowis M. J., & Nieuwoudt J. M., 1995. Use of a car toon rating-scale as a measure for the humor construct. Journal of Psychology 129 (2), 133 –144. Le Marec Gérard, 1985 Les photos truquées, un siècle de propagande par l’image. France, Paris: Editions Atlas. Mar tin Rod A., 2007 The psychology of humor: an integrative approach. London: Elsevier Academic Press. Morin Violette, 1970 Le dessin humoristique. Communications, 15, Num. 1, p 110 –131. Monro D. H., 1988 Theories of Humor. In L. Behrens & L. J. Rosen (Eds.), Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum (3rd ed.). Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co. McA. Ber yl & S. David, 1995 A Smile In The Mind. London: Phaidon Press Ltd. McCloud Scott, 1994 Understanding Comics, The invisible ar t. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. Osgood C., Suci G., Tannenbaum P., 1957 The measurement of meaning. Illinois: University of Illinois Press. Palmer Jerr y, 1994 Tacking humor seriously. New York: Routledge. Peirce Charles, 1978 Écrits sur le signe. G. Deledalle (Collected & commented). Paris: Editions du Seuil. Powell C. & Paton G. E. C., 1988 Resistance and Control. Hong Kong: The Macmillan Press LTD. Ragon Michel, 1960 Le dessin d’humour. France: Librairie Ar thème Fayard. Raskin Victor, 1985 Semantic Mechanisms of humor. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co. Ross Alison, 1998 The language of humor. United States, New York: Routledge.

Roukes Nicholas, 2003 Ar tful jesters: innovators of visual wit and humor. California: Ten Speed Press. Ruch Willibald, 1998 The sense of humor: explorations of a personality characteristic. Berlin: Mouton de Gruy ter. Schopenhauer Ar thur, 1969 The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I. New York: Dover Publications Inc. (Original work published 1818). Shifman Limor, 2007 Humor in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Continuity and Change in Internet Based Comic Tex ts. International Journal of Communication 1, 187–209. Suls Jerr y, 1972 A two-stage model for the appreciation of jokes and car toons: An informationprocessing analysis. In J.H. Goldstein & P.E. McGhee (Eds.), The Psychology of Humor. Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues (p 81-100) New York, London: Academic Press. Thonnon Laurence, 2008 La perception de la réalité dans l’image photographique à l’ère du numérique. Unpublished master’s thesis, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, Nice. Weissberg Jean-Louis, 1999 Déplacement vir tuel et réseaux numeriques: Pourquoi nous ne croyons plus la télévision. Paris: Editions l’Harmattan.


References Labeyrie L., 1984 A rebrousse-poil. France, Grenoble: Editions J. Glénat. Lariot, 1988 Lariot. Stuttgar t: Verlag Gerd Hatje. Larson Gar y, 1982 The far side. United States: Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Images

Books and websites

de Baecque Antoine, 1988 La caricature revolutionnaire. Italie: Ar ti Grafiche Vincenzo Bona. Baily John, 1950 Car toons. New York: E. P. Dutton and co. Burkhard Fritsche, 1986 Meisterhaf t. Germany: SemmelVerlach. Bürki, 1997 Le nouveau Bürki. Lausanne: 24 Heures.

Larson Gar y, 1984 The far side galler y. A Universal Press Syndicate Af filiate. Melot Michel, 1975 Die karikatur, das komische in der kunst. Fribourg: Of fice du livre. Perscheid Mar tin, 1998 Der Dicke Perscheid. Germany: Lappan Verlag GmbH. Reiser Jean-Marc Vive les vacances. France: Albin Michel. Reiser Jean-Marc La vie des bêtes. France: Albin Michel.

Bürki, 1999 Signé Burki. Lausanne: 24 Heures.

Reiser Jean-Marc, 1981 L’année des handicapés. France: Albin Michel.

Behrendt Fritz, 1971 Der nächste bitte. Amstelveen: Die Welt-woche.

Reisinger Oto, 1977 Feine Leute. Switzerland: Nebelspalter Verlag Rorschach.

Crumb Rober t, 1997 The Rober t Crumb Cof fee Table Ar t Book.Chester field: Kitchen Sink Press.

Reisinger Oto, 1984 Schöne Gesellschaf t. Switzerland: Nebelspalter Verlag Rorschach.

Dubout, 1974 Dubout, 200 dessins. Paris, France: Editions Michèle Trinck vel. Feuerhahn Nelly, 1993 Traits d’imper tinence, Histoire et chefs-d’œuvre du dessin d’humour de 1914 à nos jours. Farigliano: Milanostampa. Fiddy Roland, 1991 Hoch lebe die Ehe. Germany: Cadmos Verlag GmbH. F’Murr, 1976 Le Génie des alpages. France: Les Éditions Dargaud. Haitzinger Horst, 1993 Haitzinger Karikaturen 93. München: Bruckmann.

Siné, 1965 Haut-le-coeur! Paris, France: Jean-Jacques Pauver t. Websites http://w w w.acidcow.com/ http://w w w.allfunnypictures.com/ http://w w w.drole.ch/ http://w w w.funnyjunk.com/ http://w w w.greatfunnypictures.com/ http://w w w.holybug.com/ http://w w w.humor.com/ http://w w w.koreus.com/ http://w w w.lolhome.com/ http://w w w.smilepanic.com/ http://w w w.witzbild.de/


Master thesis in visual communication Master of Ar ts in Design Z端rich University of the Ar ts, 2011 Adrien Moreillon


Have you ever noticed that the graphic structure of an image is sometimes enough to give you an idea of the kind of content it communicates ? How can the graphic structure of a humorous image influence the perception of its content ? What happens when a humorous image displays a visual aspect that highly resembles the one of our reality ?

A man falls down the stairs  

This study approaches the subject of how humor is communicated through images with a specific interest in the correlation between the visual...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you