a study on the use of the "laff box" in tv comedy series since it's first appearance in 1950 until 2009
Installation / 2009
This project is meant to be a research study on the use of "canned laughter" in TV comedy series since it's appearence in 1950 until 2009.
June - July of 2009, Miguel Nabinho Gallery, Lisbon
October - December of 2009, Bon Accueil Gallery, Rennes
While researching for this piece i stumble upon a text by Slavoj Zizek on the death of Charles R. Douglass, the inventor of the "Laff Box", the artificial laughter which accompanies comical moments in TV. In this brief text Zizek follows the idea that "canned laughter" "undermines the natural presuppositions about the status of our innermost emotions". He defines it clearly as "the situation in which the object itself takes from me, deprives me of, my own passive reaction of satisfaction (laughter), so that it is the object itself which 'enjoys the show' instead of me, relieving me of the superego duty to enjoy myself?"
So instead of using our own laughter, us, the viewers, laugh through it. To exemplify his idea he gives the particular example of arriving home from work, too exhausted to engage in a meaningful activity, pressing the tv power button and stare, then we don't need to laugh anymore but still can feel relieved after the show, because the tv was laughing in our place. Our "most intimate feelings can be radically externalized, I can literally 'laugh and cry through another.'"
The interesting point that caught my attention is when he finds the paradox for this behaviour on today's new media use, quoting Robert Pfaller "interpassivity" term to start, he continues with the following analysis: "Today, it is a commonplace to emphasize how, with new electronic media, the passive consumption of a text or a work of art is over: I no longer merely stare at the screen, I increasingly interact with it, entering into a dialogic relationship with it." and follows up with an assumption that has been a constant concern in all of my practice: "in contrast to the notion that the new media turn us into passive consumers who just stare blindly at the screen, one should claim that the so-called threat of the new media resides in the fact that they deprive us of our passivity, of our authentic passive experience, and thus prepare us for the mindless frenetic activity."
Selection of 60 TV series with the use of "canned laughter", one for each of the years between 1950 and 2009 according to their original air date.
Selection of one particular episode for each of the series, from it's respective year.
Download of every episode chosen.
Programming of a small application to allow me to register and store, in xml files, video timecodes.
Visualization of all 60 episodes registering every in and out points of the overdubed laughter inserts.
Assembly and programming of 60 electronic circuits, one for each of the episodes, that according to its particular timecodes activates/deactivates a relay and consequently a led.
Programming of a small application that for each of the timecodes lists exports a vector bar graphic in which the width of the black bars represents the "canned laughter" inserts times.
the total width of the graphic is related to each series duration.
Programming of an online application to visualize all the data collected.
(still in progress)
Sharing of all the data collected.
Download all xml files in zip format:
Festured in the Sound is Art blogt: