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Watching you watching me. -  Funny Art
The Fuschia Tree
Editor's Note.
There is a variety of laughter: chuckles, sniggers, grins, smirks, giggles, smiles, hysterical roaring, screaming, chortling, sneering, guffawing, tittering, crying.
What makes something funny? Paradoxically, the thing that makes us laugh is most likely lonely, dark, ironic, abnormal, absurd, causing the human body to loop and curl in ways that shift its centre of gravity, and the human mind to twist and turn in ways that ostracize it from society and law.
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By Avni Doshi
It is a strange experience to be truly alone. Especially when everyone is watching.

To be alone is generally to have the finger of ridicule pointed at you. To be floating adrift like an island without anchor often means the eyes of conquistadors are upon you.

Sarnath Banerjee interjects humor through language and image into the idea of the solitary self with his series Temporary Autonomous Zones. The work was made with Gabriel García Márquez in mind, whose stories are activated through fantasy rather than fact. While in One Hundred Years of Solitude individuals are liberated from the perceived order through the lens of magic, Banerjee turns to solitude as an antidote to repression. It is in quite moments, often comical and unrehearsed, that epiphanies emerge.

Gabriel García Márquez said that everyone has three lives: a public one, a private one, and a secret one.

Foucault ascertains that what makes one laugh at this or that is rarely very funny. It is a trick or a distraction from looking at something fully in the face. When you laugh whole-heartedly, your head may roll back and your eyes along with it, while your body convulses, snorts and shudders. It is neither a cry, nor a sneeze, nor an orgasm. It is a series of noises that cut something potentially deviant off. It feels better than squirming while your eyes unwillingly shift about a room.

For Banerjee, an island is a place in between. A No Man’s Land. Where laws can be broken.

An island is where strong men go to contemplate the balance sheet of life.

It is where he goes forth on a lonely journey, rowing tirelessly, perhaps admiring the growth of new muscles, chest hair, and the harsh burn of the midday sun on his foreheads. It is where he finds a solitary rock, or piece of bark, where he can be at one with nature. Maybe he can practice a little Vipassana, a technique of meditation. He had cut out an article about it last week. Finally he can be alone. Where he wanted to be. The funny thing is, all he can really do is cry. It is not so funny, after all, being alone with one’s thoughts.

What, then, is it about solitude that can be so amusing? It is hard to define except through example. Imagine someone talking to themselves in an empty room. The thought might just bring a giggle to your lips. The Galapagos Islands are just such a place which might elicit a nervous laugh and cackle. For a hefty sum, you can book a luxury cruise to take you around the islands. 3 days, 5 days or 7 days spent in scouring a once-untouched terrain. There are plenty of beaches for sunbathers if hiking is not your thing. Do this trip in conjunction with a visit to Machu Pichu, which is currently celebrating 100 years of Hiram Bingam’s excavation of the Incan spiritual site.  Bingam was an important scholar frm Yale. But the Galapagos Islands are something special. If you are lucky, you can see flying penguins, man-eating turtles, and blue-footed birds that lay eggs but more closely resemble ancient reptilian forms.

The freaks gather in their circus and perform locally grown mating rituals. I could sit for hours with a paper and pad, taking notes and drawing scribbles of what I have seen, linking moments and observations in a perfectly logical train of thought. Maybe in a few months I will have an adequate thesis to show to my professor.  I laugh at the scene. Tears come to my eyes. My nose begins to run.


Avni Doshi is an independent art historian and curator living between Mumbai and New York.

Sarnath Banerjee was born in 1972 and is currently based in Berlin.

Also in this issue

  • the thickness of the objects, he says, and the thinness of writing, the don't touch signs proclaiming the desire to touch in galleries, I said, and the drops of dal on writing, the don't touch signs proclaiming the desire to
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  • We are cautious and self-aware, and our risks are safe ones: no one has slammed the proverbial (or actual) dead parrot against a shop desk, insisting it’s still alive, for a few decades now.
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  • Her giant plastic head with large, tear-shaped eyes and no mouth (voice) reveals, beneath the humor, a grim outlook on a world where it is difficult to be oneself.
    Read More

Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing
Meaning: In Search of Significance.
Melody: A Different Tune
Rhythm: Ordering Time

Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture.