Humor US


This exhibition considers philosopher John Morreall’s definition of humor as “amusement that takes pleasure in a cognitive shift.” Indeed, much of what we find laughable also allows us to think differently about people, ideas, and states of being. Yet, in light of the current election season, humor can also function as an aggressive act of power and cause destructive effects. The graduate students featured in Humor US utilize comicality as a medium to reflect on the world outside of academia in the new upcoming presidential tenure. Through installations, videos, and photographs embedded with wittiness, the artists display personal experiences of disenfranchisement, criticisms regarding the American Dream, and platforms for positive social and political change made possible by the simplicity of simply listening to one another.

Jin Zhu’s video piece sets the tone for the exhibition by providing viewers with a historical context and well-trodden path associated with Western politics––the disruption and marginalization of the “other” by the white male.  Douglas Angulo's video piece, and his deafening stare within it, builds on Zhu’s concepts and asks us to take a hard look inward to consider how we form and project identity, and construct misconceptions of identity. The work of France Viana and Hui Meng Wang question what it means to step in and out of traditional and individual identity in a photographic exploration and video piece, respectively. Viana searches for answers in the neighborhoods of Filipino Americans and confronts their political values. In a satirical commentary on the emerging Chinese middle class, Wang’s video investigates the disconnection between their idealized lifestyle and actual reality that is increasingly shaped by the political and social interests of the West.  Nathan Becka's objects and the installation of Kaitlin Trataris mock the blind acceptance that follows campaign endorsements and empty promises given by both powerful figures and everyday citizens simply due to the chase of the American Dream. Finally, it is Boris Scherbakov’s sound installations that presents viewers with some answers while grappling with the current political elections: to truly embrace our everyday surroundings and focus on conversations that lead to greater cultural and political understanding.

This exhibition is curated by Tanya Gayer (CCA), whose proposal was selected in Embark's recent call for curatorial proposals from Bay Area graduate students.


Douglas Angulo | SFAI

Nathan Becka | CCA

Boris Scherbakov | Mills

Kaitlin Trataris | SFAI

France Viana | Mills

Hui Meng Wang | SFAI

Jin Zhu | UC Berkeley