If I begin with looking at the work in a non-comedic fashion, I see it as exploring the holistic nature of life, the day job and the after-work hobby. Morin is bringing his personal self and hobbies into his art by drumming and using that as a method of speaking, rather than words. Caleb Kelley describes the function of noise in art: Paul Virilio, for example, argues that silence has been put on trial and that noise in art is ‘in the process of lastingly polluting our representations.’ Here the desire for quiet and peaceful contemplation goes hand in hand with the belief that art should be separate from daily life: the ‘noise’ of the everyday somehow lessens the experience of art, ‘polluting’ it. 1
Morin rejects the idea that art should be separate from daily life and places his personal self into the work. The linear, controlled nature of the work reminds me of notions of the progression of a designer/artist’s life. The designer originates as timid, starts with the basics, follows those he looks up to, and continually practices. The novice designer is hounded with rules and expectations, and follows them. Just as Morin continually strikes the target and misses the center, the designer fails and misses the target until the “correct” answer is cemented into the designer’s mind. Once the designer develops basic skills and is able to continually hit the target, the experimentation begins and the quest for something deeper emerges. He ventures into different mediums and forms, seeking the answers of self, meaning and personal style. Lastly, the designer reaches a form of mastery and con-
by KRISTA LANGEHENNIG
A polite salesman, a Don Draper pitching to a client, a teacher, a self-important mime; the character played by Christian Morin in Hitting Circles for a Living is a strange, rewarding mystery to contemplate. Morin’s work explores the progression through a designer’s life from the baby steps to mastery, the expectation to stay on target, the self-importance of the designer, and the futile nature of much of design’s professional practices. Morin’s work is highly designed, controlled, branded and planned. In the end, I see the work attempting to function in two possible ways: one serious, one humorous.
2 fidence and maybe even a personal voice that rejects the rules. In the end, he forcibly discredits the target that represents guidelines and constraints by ripping the target away. This progression of the designer is evident through the three “reveals” of the targets and the increase in skill in drumming. To address the sound aspect of the work, the build-up of the percussion within the show generates a feeling of pent up frustration from Morin. The notion of the “scream” from writings by Hermann Nitsch about the O.M. Theatre adds to the possible complexities behind Morin’s drumming, ultimately leading to a climax and release: The rediscovery of psychological human states that have been buried in the unconscious reveals values that are central to the tragedy…In terms of human history the use of the scream came before the word, which developed out of the mating call… The scream is a more immediate expression of the unconscious, of the sphere of drives, than the word; a screaming situation normally arises when the id asserts itself, overcoming intellectual control and giving way to the elementary drive for life-assertion… The negation of the word, the retreat into the ecstasy of the scream, stands for communication with the unconscious, the deliberate analytic immersion into the unconscious. We give ourselves up to the frenzy of vegetative, often hectic-dynamic laws; we shake off the bondage of the intellect.1 The build-up of drumming throughout can be interpreted as a “scream” of sorts. Morin rejects the use of the “word” or “intellect” and
“screams” through the nearly primitive state of noise making as language. He is rejecting the traditional intellect and schooling he has received as a designer and rebelling against the rules in order to redefine his education for himself. Although, through these explanations, Morin fails to truly hold up the concept of designer turned rebel. The gestures of rebellion are minute, timid and controlled for someone who seems tremendously exasperated with the rules and expectations of professionalism and design. This leads me toward a more interesting area of exploration where I begin to see the work as comedic. I can decode Morin’s work through the lens of concrete comedy, which is the “comedy of doing, rather than saying… it can also include behaviors--comic actions or gestures--that are carried out in the real space/real time setting of some public theater: the street, a football stadium, a department store, a wrestling ring, and so on.” 2 Morin fashions a theater of his own construction through objects, made and found. This speaks to the work of Mat Kubo, No Talking, Just Typing, in which he sits in an upscale office environment of his own design and planning, including selected objects such as vintage speakers, suitcases and typewriters. He sits and waits for people to come to him one by one to communicate back and forth through typewriter messages. This exchange becomes theatrical and humorous due to the futility of communicating in such a slow manner.3 Morin formulates a theatrical context involving objects and places himself within it, just as Mat Kubo located himself within his context by interacting nonverbally with his audience. Concrete comedy involves objects/performance and adds another complicating layer by taking a seemingly real life situation and altering its terms of belief.3 Our belief in a teacher/ instructor is foiled by Morin’s nonsensical presentation of gestures and pointing that
by KRISTA LANGEHENNIG
The overstated, silent film gestures and oneto-one comedic relationship of objects lead to overtones of slapstick comedy. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton used props and hyperbole to push comedic ideas forward, just as Morin uses the drumsticks (literally slapping sticks together), drums (musical and riso) among many other props to direct the theatrical push of his point forward. The electronic drum on top of a stack of risograph ink drums elicited an eye roll at the painfully obvious pun, until I saw this work through a staged, slapstick lens. This one-to-one was briefly humorous, and then led to indifference and the loss of any deeper message. Much of the humor in Chaplin’s films mocks society, politics and the duality of the human condition. In the film A Night in the Show, Chaplin plays dual roles, one of his old stage success, and the other as a dissipated working man, both of whom are at the same vaudeville performance.5 Morin mirrors this in his dual role as the polite instructor (maybe his past rule-following designer self ) and the rebellious musician (maybe his current defiant self ). The nonsensical nature of Morin’s presentation, reveals and gestures leads me to a perception of Morin endeavoring to mock the design profession and the people in it who force tra-
dition, trendiness and/or rules. The absurdity of excessively pointing to the target, and the insistence of his illogical program reminds me of a Chaplin film called Work, about incompetent laborers. Chaplin plays a paperhanger’s assistant hired to paper a mansion. Peace is replaced with anarchy, culminating with a massive explosion. The opening sequence— which shows Charlie pulling a work cart down a busy street and up a hill with his boss sitting in the cart’s driver seat, hitting Charlie with a whip—is striking for its symbolic importance regarding the exploitation and degradation of human laborers.5 Similarly, Morin’s work can be interpreted as a critique upon the corporate, advertising, “sell your soul” area of design. Morin degrades himself by attempting to place a gibberish agenda onto us. He steals the work of Paul Rand and uses it to advertise himself, pointing to the meaninglessness of attempting to be original. We are all implicated in this foolishness by watching, listening and trying to internalize a senseless demonstration of ideas. The absurdity and frustration Morin offers mimics the comedic struggle of silent film characters, and in the end, Morin’s character gives up on trying to hit the target (i.e., be what he is expected to be.) The understanding of the work through a non-comedic view brings to light flaws in the piece. If the work is seriously attempting to show Morin as rejecting rules, trendiness and tradition, this is not fully translated due to the coy nature of the rebellion. The control over the visuals, the planning and weak climax ultimately lead me to believe it is not rebellious enough to make this analysis successful. Through a comedic outlook, the work is
by KRISTA LANGEHENNIG
communicates nothing. Our faith in the drummer as rebel is debunked by Morin’s clean-cut appearance and politeness. Our acceptance of the three targets on the wall is tested by the revelation of their materiality and complexity (e.g., the mirror underneath the center painting, the hollowness of the print on the far right). This humor and strangeness can relate to musicians like Frank Zappa, who was commercially successful, but also experimented with comedy/absurdity and performed on a bicycle on the Steve Allen Show. 4 These layers of strangeness are what I find the most fascinating area within the work.
6 slightly more fruitful, but ultimately reads as surface level due to the one-to-one slapstick nature of the comedy that leads to indifference and a lack of any specific idea. Getting across a comedy can be a much more deliberative and constructed act than is something thatâ€™s quite evidently or directly funny.2 I feel as if the humor is enjoyable, and for the most part, direct and easily digestible. Therefore, I do not feel a strong desire to dig deeper into the meaning of the humor, so I just laugh.
1. Multiple authors., Documents of Contemporary Art: Sound. (London: MIT Press, 2011). 2. http://www.artbook.com/blog-interview-robbins.html 3. https://vimeo.com/90406239 4. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=1MewcnFl_6Y 5. http://www.charliechaplin.com/en/films/ essanays
by KRISTA LANGEHENNIG