Thursday 11 February 2021

Yue Minjun: Maniacal Laughter

 Yue Minjun Yue Minjun (b. 1962, Heilongjiang, China) became famous after creating the piece Execution (1995) showing the laughing protesters as they were about to be executed.  

This idea of laughter is obviously not because we think it is hilarious, it the maniacal laughter when we face death.  This art has been term 'cynical realism' 

Sigmund Freud created 'Relief Theory'  on why we laugh.  The basis of this theory is that it relieves nervous energy in us, it saves psychic energy, excess of energy is released by laughing and that dreams and humour allow us to enjoy pleasure unconsciously. (Eightron 2021)

George Bataille also considered laughter an important philosophy and equated it with the 'the violence of spasmodic joy lies deep in my heart.  This violence, at the same time, and I tremble as I say it, is the heart of death: it opens itself up to me!
The ambiguity of this human life is really that of mad laughter and of sobbing tears.  It comes from the difficulty of harmonising reason's calculations with these tears ...with this horrible laugh' (Bataille 1989)

There is an idea that it is difficult to recognise the difference between tears of laughter and tears in facial expression.  The image below is the photographer Oscar Rejlander who worked with Charles Darvin on photographic illustrations for his books. Darwin knew many photographers as he had been photographed by many of them and he legitimized using photographs instead of the drawing and engravings in scientific books.  Darwin wanted to recognise emotions and so created a book called The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animal (1872) 'Darwin spent years collecting and studying photographs and paintings of the various emotions. He corresponded at length with zookeepers, photographers, illustrators, and even the directors of mental institutions (he felt mental patients exhibited ‘unrestrained emotions’ that would make good examples), obtaining photographs and illustrations to use in his book.' (Cicala R. 27/02/2021) 


So why the fascination with laughter, I am fascinated by the philosophy of laugher and my work on the end times I want to incorporate that end of world laughter that we see here.  It is not laughing in face of death, it perhaps laughing despite death or perhaps just that death itself is a blessed relief.  I hope that I can feel the joy and ecstasy of laughter through this work...


Projects Eightron (11/02/2021) Laughter [Online] Available from (Accessed (11/02/2021)

Laura (2007) If its hip, it's here: The Magnificient Smile of Yue Minjun [Online] Available from (Accessed (11/02/2021)

Batialle G (1989) The Tears of Eros. City Lights Books. San Francisco

Cicala R. (27.02.2012) Lensrentals: Six Degrees of Charles Darwin, and Rejlander’s Last Laugh. [Online] Available from: (Accessed (11/02/2021)

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