FRArt Why relooking at caricature today ?Introduction

  • type: Article
  • ref: DOC.2021.85
  • tags: caricature

Eleni Kamma’s research project, initiated with the support of A/R, involves a historical re-reading and analysis of the issues at stake in caricature from the standpoint of current politics and contemporary art. Parallel to her research, the artist is writing a thesis entitled Taking Place: Parrhesiastic theatre as a model for artistic practice. Parrhesia, from the ancient Greek παρρησία (“speak freely”), can be interpreted to mean free speech, as in the liberty of expression, or even the obligation to speak truths for the common good at the risk of personally exposing oneself to the public. The artist uses this concept as a way to question the notion of entertainment in relation to personal expression, within the context of an artistic practice that draws on public participation.
The project Why relooking at Caricature today? follows three distinct research axes, each with its own specific methodology. The first retraces the history of Belgian caricature, which has steadily flourished since the nineteenth century, through a series of plastic and literary works studied within museum institutions and the archives of Brussels, in order to discern their main subversive effects. The artist also proposes to explore the city in search of traces and evidence of caricature left along the urban fabric, as well as its expression through various folkloric traditions, such as the Carnival. The second axis looks closely at the stance of politicians on contemporary caricature, through social networks and television, at a time of “fake news” or “post-truth” (ex. Donald Trump, Brexit). Rather than reveal truths, caricature distorts them, dresses them up to deflect attention from real issues, all while serving the populist and demagogic discourse of politicians. The goal in this phase is to collect instances of this phenomenon and proceed with a comparative case study to draw a report on caricature in today’s climate. Finally, the artist suggests that caricature is no longer a marginal act and thus it behooves us to reconsider its role by investigating new possible forms of opposition to social media; through real actions and real gestures made by a physical body in public space, with a focus on the body’s subjective experience and performance. This research is undertaken with a professional dancer, Sahra Huby, and possibly with the students of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Furthermore, Eleni Kamma proposes an examination of the heritage of caricature in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and its use as a pedagogical tool. In a fine arts education that relies on live models, caricature is a disturbing force that interferes with the study of harmony and correct proportions dictated by aesthetic convention, thus revealing the normative foundations of the latter. What role do we assign to the body today when it comes to learning within different disciplines (drawing, dance, performance, etc.)? How can an arts education, which must resist the trend towards normalization, make use of this critical tool?