VSRI Events

Please find our Spring 2016 calendar here.

VSGC Seminar and Lecture Series: MDA 599 – At the Edge of Humor

Seminar: 2 - 5pm                                          
Public Lectures: 12:30 - 2pm        
SOS 250




"Humor” has fascinated and perplexed theorists for centuries. Elastic and ephemeral, it evades analysis that would pin it down. Indeed, the operations and effects of humor’s various modalities can be especially difficult to parse in the realm of visual imagery. Where do “satire” and “parody” part ways, for example? Does “wit” thrive in textual formats but wither in imagery? Is “irony” headier than “slapstick”? How useful are these categories (and is “humor” an adequate umbrella concept under which they might be organized)? We will explore these questions by addressing both historical and contemporary examples, consulting both canonical texts and new research in the field. Our goal will be to develop methods for assessing the nuances of this work and to become sharper critics of “humorous” expression and the scholarship devoted to it. An international group of guest speakers structures the seminar, giving students the chance to interact with scholars and practitioners approaching the topic from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

Guest Speakers:  
01/27: Sherry Velasco, "Obscene Humor, Grotesque Bodies, and Political Parody in the Age of Cervantes"
02/10: Ann Marie Yasin, “Looking at Laughter in Ancient Rome”
02/17: Scott Bukatman, "Gags, Pratfalls, and other Animated Actions"
- Preceded by film screening at 12:30pm
02/24: Julia Langbein, "Comic Criticism: French Salon Caricature and Popular Press Parody"
03/23: Keith Harris, "Racial Performativity and Satirical Critique"
- Preceded by public lecture at 12:30pm
03/30: Morgan Labar, "Dumb or Dumber? Assessing the Criticality of Stupidity"
- Preceded by public lecture at 12:30pm
04/06: Eric Jarosinski, "Nein. A Manifesto"
04/20: Gregory Williams, "Humor and Mistranslation in the Work of Martin Kippenberger"
- Preceded by public lecture at 12:30pm
04/27: David Robbins, "Concrete Comedy"
- Public lecture at 7:00pm
Please find flyer here


VSRI Panel Discussion


"Decolonizing the Museum"
Bridget R. Cooks
Christine Y. Kim
Macarena Gomez-Barris
Monday, April 4
5 - 7pm
SOS 250

Decolonizing the Museum is a panel event that addresses how assumptions of racial difference have constituted and reproduced particular forms of knowledge production and object collection and display. Presentations by LACMA Curator Christine Y. Kim, UC Irvine Art Historian Professor Bridget R. Cooks, and USC ASE Professor Macarena Gomez-Barris will explore the present conditions of the colonial and modern trace within the museum, offering emergent models. Discussion will follow.

Please RSVP one week prior to all events at VSRI@USC.EDU




USC-LACMA Photo Seminar


"Symposium, Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium"
Wednesday, April 12

Scholarly panel connected to Mapplethorpe exhbit at LACMA.




Ann Friedberg Memorial Lecture


"American Negro Female, Oscar Wilde: The Archaeology of a Photograph"
Robin Lewis
Wednesday, April 13
12:30 - 2pm
SOS 250

A rousing distillation of the most radical tenets of the Nein Manifesto, including a consideration of deadpan humor and textual methods of humorous expression and dissemination.




VSGC: MDA 599 Lecture Series


"Humor and Mistranslation in the Work of Martin Kippenberger"
Gregory Williams
Boston University
Wednesday, April 20
12:30 - 2pm
SOS 250 

The lecture and seminar explore the role of locally inflected wit and vernacular wordplay in the mobile and multifaceted career of Martin Kippenberger. The German artist’s international popularity might seem surprising, given that his combination of visual humor and verbal jokes often propel comedic language (in its material, conceptual, and pictorial forms) to the point of incomprehensibility. Williams will offer thoughts on the potential for mistranslation to function as a critical force. Following the lecture, Williams will discuss his book Permission to Laugh: Humor and Politics in Contemporary German Art (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and consider the challenges of writing about a brand of humor that does not always aim to prompt laughter from the audience.




VSGC: MDA 599 Lecture Series


"Concrete Comedy"
David Robbins
Wednesday, April 27
7 - 8:30pm
SLH (Stauffer Science Lecture Hall) 102

For three decades, in his objects and writings David Robbins has promoted a frank, unapologetic recognition of the contemporary overlap between the art and entertainment contexts. His seminal work Talent (1986) is widely recognized as predicting visual art's celebrity era, and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist credits his multi-platform Ice Cream Social project (1993 -2008) with pioneering the expanded exhibition. Subsequently evolving away from the prevailing value system of contemporary art, in his books High Entertainment (2009) and Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (2011) Robbins advanced categories of imaginative endeavor that offer other models for cultural production.



Past Events


 The Art of Controversy
A conversation with Victor Navasky
and Jon Wiener

Thursday, September 12



The Rise and Fall of Cartoon Physics
Scott Bukatman, Professor of Art & Art History, Stanford University

Thursday, October 3

  • Visual Studies Research Institute
  • Fax: 213-740-8971