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Naufal Abshar


Naufal Abshar

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of


In the Graduate College



Naufal Abshar


Chapter I..4
Humor in Freud..4-5
Bergson and the Function of Humor5-6
Humor as Social Critique......................6-7

Chapter II....8
Humor and its Manifestations8
Laughter as a Visual Motive.....................8
Yue Minjun.....................9-10
Eko Nugroho..11-13
I Nyoman Masriadi...................13-15

Chapter III.......16
The Art of Collecting17
Berlindung di Balik Jubah Baja (Hiding Behind the Armor)..19-20
Fishing Catch Games...20-21

Chapter IV.22

Naufal Abshar

Humour is identified as something funny and entertaining. The jokes
within humour create amusement, which in turn produce laughter.
So I asked my self what is the meaning and theory behind humour?
When that question appeared, I tired to analyze what the
relationship between humour and laughter is. Laughter is not always
identical to humour. The relationship between these two characters
are complicated. The analysis of Sigmund Freud and Henri Bergson
on Humor and its manifestation is examined to understand the
function and role of humor in human life. in this dissertation, I will
observe and analyze more closely about the relationship between
these two and also the activity of laughter in the context of
contemporary life in social movement. This thesis will illustrate how
humour is implied within in Asian art, especially in Indonesian art
and culture. The following artists are Eko Nugroho, Nyoman
Masriadi, and Chinese Yue Minjun.

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Chapter I

Humor in Freud
Humour is one of the platforms that criticizes something, either in
politics within a certain government, or even in potential social gaps
(Palmer 1994). Humour, when crossing the form of raw criticism uses
metaphoric elements, injecting jokes or comedy to a topic of
criticism, into something funny and interesting to laugh at. These
theories of humour have been researched and affirmed by Austrian
neurologist Sigmund Freud in 1895 (Freud 2015)
Freuds theory specifically investigates humour in terms
of human psychology - laughter specification. He produces his
theory on his book under title, Wit and its Relation to the
Unconscious which was published in 1905. Within his analysis he
finds techniques of jokes by using vocabulary, grammar, syntax and
words. This, he believes these techniques are the form of the
surface matter of humour which there is another matter beyond
that. The liberty and pure excitement in nonsense and the playing
with words that embattle order can bring humour into manifestation.
He also believes humans laugh due to permission to express the
energy from hostility or aggression; the release on liberation joy of words for the
pleasure in laughter (Kincaid 2010).
Freud argued that his analysis follows an account of a humans
pleasure in the wit and comic. He says laughter at stupidity, the
nave, repetition, caricature, contagious and clarifies it as differing
from wit in its psychic location which is in the conscious rather than
the subconscious (Kincaid 2010). Yet humour both confirms and denies
society and it is from a social perspective, indirectly disruptive, yet
shifts towards coalescence. Nevertheless it is a coalition of joy,
dedicated with freedom and order. Although Freud intended jokes to
be understood as a self-contained book, it belonged to his wider
theoretical project Freuds theory was designed to illustrate the
importance of unconscious factors in mental life. But it was also
based on a natural vision about the relationships between and

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individual and society. This social vision is particularly important in
order to understand Freuds point of view on humour (Billig 2005).

Freuds theory depicts repression as the means by which

unruly human nature is socially disciplined. The unconscious rebels
against this discipline in dreams, slips of the tongue and jokes.
Towards the depiction of jokes in his study, Freud explains that
sometimes joke operates a double meaning and can be translated
into different meanings and interpretations. By connecting humour
with taboos, Freud explains why the subject matter of jokes is not
randomly distributed across the fields of human activity (Billig 2005).
Freuds theory infiltrates into culture and the psychologies of
social life. His
theory of the relationship of humour, laughter and jokes turns to a
social process. Acknowledging that humour may imply more than
social life at a particular moment than about particular people, he
investigated how humour and its manifestations expand on other
internal psychological perspectives with the influence of social
aggression and social cohesion (Singmund 2008). He proposes a
number of theoretical approaches to achieve the understanding of
humour and its manifestation. Humour and its relationship to the
unconscious is one of his main theoretical ideas; due to the
expression of unconscious thoughts such as social control,
emotional control and interference in daily life.

Bergson and the Function of Humor

After the discussing Freuds theoretical facts about humour, laughter
and jokes, it
seems quiet clear that humour has a wide range of function and
understanding. Humour manifestos emerge with human psychology
and theory. Another theorist who studied twentieth century humour
function is Henri Bergson. In his studies, laughter does not urge readers to smile
through adversity nor does it sentimentally praise the life-enhancing goodness of a
sense of humor. Instead Bergson like Freuds idea of laughter, placed
laughter under suspicion (Billig 2005).
Henri Bergson was a major French philosopher, when he
begins his work on laughter, he analyzes things that make people

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laugh. In his philosophical theory, Bergson describes the background to all his major
books with exception: he does not mention Laughter. One of his book is
Laughter-An Essay Meaning Of The Comic 2003. Laughter stands
apart from his other works. There were good philosophical reasons
why Bergson, when examining humour always departed with the
basics of human psychology. In fact his first observation is that
laughter from human, meaning that laughter started due to of
human action. (Billig 2005).
He argued that laughter was provoked by rigid or mechanical
behavior. Having outlined what provokes laughter, Bergson then
describes the function of laughter. He highlights the disciplinary
function that laughter fulfills in helping to discourage inelasticity and
the theoretical reversal contained in his first observation, namely,
that humans are laughed-at animals. Laughter does not exist to
ease the stress and strains of social life, instead transmuting
potentially negative situations into tolerably positive ones (Billig
Bergsons theoretical theory is well covered to account for the
universality of humour, although he focuses his study in humour
manifestation. He believes all human social life benefits from the
disciplinary properties of laughter. In addition, Bergsons theory has
no issue in accounting for the social aspects of laughter in the way
that purely psychological theories do. He turns around such
theories, starting from the assumption that humour fulfills a social
rather than a psychological function.
The rebellious nature of laughter is also featured strongly in Freuds
theory. In Bergsons perspective, by contrast, laughter is a
mechanism of discipline, judgment in the order of life
Identification of humour within both Freuds and Bergsons
theories have two slightly different visions. Firstly, Freud focuses on
the relationship between humour with the subconscious as socio
control and as an interference in daily life. He believes humour is
appropriate to stress the tensions between the world of ideas and
daily life. Secondly, Bergson observes the discipline of humour, how
laughter can be represented within social aspects.
Humour and comedy are studied in most humanities
disciplines such as anthropology of humor, sociology and
psychology of humour (Palmer 1994). Be it culturally or socially, these
basic studies of humour have been used century after century by
people who have studied humour theory. Yet it is also the easiest
way to understate and show how complex problems can arise, be
discussed, criticized and resolved. There are three main functions
which can be found in humour, or the way humour can be used in
human life which are: (1) humour as psychology, (2) humour as an
entertainment and (3) humour as social critique. But, in this chapter

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I want to focus on the humor as psychology and social critique due
to all my artist references and my works talks about social critique.
Humor As Social Critique:
In many times during a typical moment most people laugh at
something funny. Although it is a form of play, humour serves as a
number of serious social, cognitive and emotional functions (Martin
2007). How is humour relevant to all areas of psychology? Why is
humour enjoyable? And what role does humour play when we
interact with other people?The interpersonal functions of humour in
private interactions and group dynamics are relevant to social
psychology. Despite the obvious importance of humour in many
different areas of human experience and its relevance to all
branches of psychology, the mainstream has paid surprisingly little
attention to this subject up to now (Martin 2007). In human life,
humour is a broad term that can reflect what people say or how
they behave. Within a psychological perspective, humour can be
divided into four essential components which are: (1) a Social
context, (2) a cognitive perceptual process, (3) an emotional
response, and (4) the vocal-behavioral expression of laughter (Martin

Humor is a phenomenon that serves many social functions and issues, and a
wide range of social phenomenon fall under the umbrella of critical humor which
leads into political humor, for example a stand up comedy show creating
jokes towards the government policy or even during political
campaign, the campaign member throwing satire political jokes
towards the opposition. The idea of critical humour bears the imprint
of social issues, because each social issue is also imprinted with the
marks of its time. Social critique of humor can subtly express the differences in
taste and interpretation which often prove to be more than just preferences of taste and
understanding: politics can be involved. The theory and philosophy of humor does not
merely comprise of general ideas.
People who criticizes socio-politics condition through humor
need a satire element in their humour, it is to steep carefully into
social critique has led to a distinction between general satire
directed at broad moral failings such as hypocrisy and greed and
personal satire designed to isolate and shame specific people or
group. The function of it is for a reminder to awaken the truth that
occurs in society (Attardo n.d.).

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The ability to generate and submerge criticism is the
underlying cognitive factor of humour. Thus, no culture exists that is
unfamiliar with humour as it is universally everywhere. It appears
that every individual within human civilization reliably comprehends
obvious attempts at humour (Polimeni and P.Reiss 2006). This is also
occurred in the concept of humour in Indonesian culture and society,
implies through ritual performances which specifically allocated on
the Javanese and Sundanese for centuries. Humour placed on
gender role variously holds criticism towards government policy by
showcasing performing arts as its media to convey the message
(Spiller 2012).
In Indonesia, particularly in Java, there are many rituals that are either
cultural or religious. The roots of culture still strongly influence the
people in Indonesia. Most rituals provide entertainment, in addition
to festive ceremonies that attract crowds. Thus, most ceremonies
are accompanied by music, alongside performances by those who
throw in humorous jokes, satirical and metaphoric messages that
somehow criticize social and political order. The involvement of
humour represses the sexual or aggressive senses and also
suppresses feelings of subconscious anger and ego inside the
human soul. This is why spiritual ceremonies in Javas ethnics
groups often in corporate comedy in their rituals.
Again, there are many ways to interpret and apply humour
with all its manifestos. The application of humour is mainly delivered
through modern or traditional ways. Bridging culture and social
identity with humour constructs marvelous conceptualizations of
performances. Indeed, the mass consider humour as substantial
within laughters activity because of jokes and comedy. But
nevertheless, by learning the basic study of socio-culture, I am writing
to create an understanding of the clear lines between humor as pure laughter and
humor as critique.

Chapter II:
Humor and its Manifestations
Chapter one discussed the theory of humor and its manifestations, and in this chapter
I will be discussing how each manifestation appears in the work of various visual

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artists. I will investigate the theory of how and why they use this concept in their
Laughter as a Visual Motive.
When someone is laughing, something triggers that laugh - perhaps something
humorous or other factors such as laughing because we are nervous,
stress, happy, mocking, and crazy. Humour is contagious, the pitch
sound of
laughter is far more infectious than any cough or sneeze. When
someone starts
laughing it will be indirectly be shared. It binds people together and
increases happiness and joy. Scientifically laughter can also trigger
healthy changes in the body; such as a strengthened human
immune system, energy booster and stress reduction. This is due to it's
potential to strengthen the human immune system, boost energy, and reduce stress that
may damage the human brain. (Smith and Segal 2014).
Humour and laughter are universal aspects of human
experience. This occurrence is found in all cultures and virtually
within all individuals throughout the world (Apte 1985). Laughter is a
vocalized, distinctive, stereotyped pattern that is easily and
unmistakably recognized (Apte 1985). Laughter has become famous
for its characterized comical activities (Apte 1985).
I believe laughter is a symbolic form of protest that is located
within rejection. Not only as an anti political matter but can also be
universal. it is an activity that creates absolute liberation through
expression and thoughts. The term laughter can be defined as
symbolic protest that embraces individuals and groups who
practice symbolic defiance against certain issues (Wettergren 2009).
Moreover opposite from criticism and expression, laughter caused
by humour can reduce tension from contemporary conflicts so it is
pivotal for human social matter especially in this contemporary life.
Even though different cultures have their own norms
concerning the suitable subject matter of humour and the types of
situations in which laughter is considered appropriate, the sounds of
laughter is one of the first social vocalizations after crying (Wettergren

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Yue Minjun
Laughter can be a powerful antidote for stress, pain and
desperation? The human mind can come back into balance through
laughter. Laughter as a cure and relaxation can also become
solemn, full of intensive criticism and political. Reconfiguring
functional laughing activity has been painted by one of most famous
Chinese contemporary artist, Yue Minjun who was born in 1962
based in Beijing, China. The twist in laughing is shown within his
artworks. The contrast between the background scenery and
laughing figures illustrates agonies and narratives. The laughing
figures show two contrasting activities, showing between both joy
due to the laughter and violence of the what the figures are doing,
thus with the idea of social and political unrest

The Execution, 1995, oil on canvas, 150cm x 300 cm

With a huge mocking grin, laughing figures are the trademark
of Yue Minjuns humorous yet satire works. His works describe
comments towards the propaganda during the cultural revolution in
China. Most of his visual images satirically criticize the situation
towards the Chinese Regime (Yeh 2003). He painted repetitive
laughing figures and duplicate them continuously. The consequential
repetitive strength in numbers produces an immense force. He
creates an idol by painting himself as the main object (Yeh 2003).


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Freedom Leading the People, 1995-96, Oil on Canvas

By using his own artistic language he depicted figures in
contemporary Chinese society. War and conflict, the manipulation of
history and the ambiguity of gender are the main topics in his works
(Yeh 2003). Yues works combine two different elements between joy
and dread. Yue Min Juns works produced a characteristic, strong
emblem of Laughter. His painting displays tragedies and wars that
occurred in China; such as Chinas socialist propaganda with specific
symbols, e.g. Tiananmen Square represented on the painting of The
Execution 1995, red flag slogans in Freedom Leading the People
1995-96 painting, and others (Minjun n.d.).He combines between
laughter which represents joy and happiness, grim narratives that
are full of mock, shooting and killing gives across an evolutionary
mechanism of language criticism in contemporary art or maybe in
contemporary global culture. He uses his own figure as a main
subject in his works. In fact, his efforts to explores the Chinese
culture of todays time start from the image of him self, he comically
depicts the affected poses and attitudes, which are omnipresent
within commercial culture (Minjun n.d.)
In my perspective Yue Minjun successfully creates and
explores the concept of laughter beyond its field. This is not about
joy and fun, but something critical and serious. He places laughter
as the main weapon to criticize as he embarks on another strategy
of criticism. In his work laughter escalates beyond its context and
shows narrative through laughter. He also makes a political
statement through laughter by showing how humorous, yet so
confused, messed up and full of propaganda the political world is


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The other important element in humour is satire. Satire as found in
contemporary mass media is a particular subject that lowers offense
thresholds and usually needs to be sensitive to effective libel and
slander laws, among other less structured forms of relationship. It
can remain popular entertainment, strengthening rather than
criticize mainstream conceptions of civility or have a particularly
clear focus on a specific audience (Attardo n.d.). Satire is a form of
criticism that can be applied in many ways and within different
situations. Sometimes it is easy to notice when satire constructs
political and dark humour, at other times it may be vague. In visual
art, satire mostly appears when a certain issue bothers the artist.
One artist who depicts satire humour as its platform is Eko Nugroho.
Eko Nugroho
Humour may be filled with satire and comical scenes. Satire is
commonly found in movies, cartoons, comics and in literary works.
The definition of satire is the usage of humour that uncovers human
idiocy. Eko is Indonesian artist was born in 1997 in Yogyakarta in
Indonesia and he lives and works in Yogyakarta. Through satire,
many issues in society are picked up into the sight of others so that
issues could possibly be improved and discussed. Today, in this
contemporary era and contemporary art world Eko Nugroho works
with imagery, style and language of comics. He fearlessly merges
classical elements and icons from Indonesian culture. For example,
Wayang, everyday speech and traditional manufacturing modes
into his own language style of pop art (Arndt 2013).
His process of approach has a directness that is cheerful and
without being impeded by theory, tradition or convention. Eko
Nugroho plays
between high art and street or popular culture. He tries to twist
and express
a unique perspective as an artist who is inspired by daily life in
Yogyakarta. His work embodies and samples the present day and
shows how he responds to the current political and social situation
in Indonesia, from the lowest level to the highest level. Various
metaphoric elements arise in his works. Delicate yet scornful
messages are embedded solidly in his artistic character. In one of
Eko Nugrohos works, Kecoa Yang Menangisi Jabatanya (The
Cockroach That Weeps Over His Position, 2011) he illustrates
through various metaphoric representations, contradictory elements

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in Indonesian - Javanese Society. Communal yet selfish, polite yet
hypocritical, civilized yet violent and much more. The involvement
of tragic words, yet grotesque satire figures creates an impactful
message (Arndt 2013).

The Cockroach That Weeps Over His Position, 2011

Ekos artistic work has linked art to socio-political humour,
working with topics that attract public attention. His work infiltrates
every society level. But his work does not pose in itself a solution to
conflict or problems. Rather, his poetic and absurd humour offers a
possibility for dialogue and exchange. His embroidered and painted
text echoes daily life and the streets, more than that of a political
slogan. The grotesque body creates an institutional alignment by
creating a reconfigured body that shows social truth and the deceit
he embraced became reality.
His grounded simple approach creates an art that makes
people smile
nonetheless, yet sometimes confuses them due to the multi-leveled
absurdities and deformities of Eko Nugrohos style. Interestingly,
many people from diverse
backgrounds feel they can access and understand his work with
ease. This diverse universal democratic approach is part of the
artists own credo. He has also continued the embroidery series up
to the present day; the idea of combining traditional and modern
gives playful thoughts that illustrates an active medium of
communication transcending cultural boundaries and language
barriers, which is playfully intriguing at the same time (Arndt 2013).


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Eko creates trademark inquiries towards social concept and human behavior
beneath condition of stealthy identity. Constantly, he continuous using the idea of
hiding identity by creating masks in his works as we can see in most of his works.
The engagement of a handful of combinations in composition
between figures, text and colours have encouraged a brand new
consolidation (Coultas 2013).

My opinion is Ekos parable of satire and grotesque is as another

version of language in criticism through humour. By making dry
jokes of Indonesian circumstances and of the anxiety over social and
political problems he gains critical humour. I believe this method of
art making is not a new method, but his work is able to discuss his
own ideology and social circumstances combines with critical
thinking on the socio-politic issues that are rooted in Ekos work.
I Nyoman Masriadi:
After discussing how humours manifestation has influenced the
work of visual artists, another artist who works in a humorous
language. Which strongly influence by grotesque and body politics is
Nyoman Masriadi. Born in 1973 Nyoman Masriadi is Balinese artist
who works and lives in Yogyakarta, Masriadis paintings always carry
socio-political messages that conceal the topic with an element of
humour that is represented by satirical comical texts and body
His early series of works were dominated in socio-politically,
focusing on the collapse of the new order regime of President
Soeharto in 1998. The devastating crisis saw the near breakup of
the Indonesian nation. His works often accentuated heavily muscled,
dark skinned figures, which were influenced by contemporary visual
culture such as comic books, magazines and video games (Wuwa
The character of figures in Masriadis work creates an integral
part of his artistic ideology that is considerably rich in expression,
humour, meaning and satire. His works have successfully addressed
the issues of tradition versus modernity. He combines both
traditional Baliness and Indonesian mythological figure with
westerns idols and super heroes figure. A wide topic and issue
which allows the artist to excavate deeper into human nature and
cultural issues. His paintings are able to cover a wide range of
scenarios and situations. The scope of representing the figure
widens in most of his works; the focus on the reconstruction of the

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body, mainly as a physical yet existent entity for particular
compositional and symbolic ends.
Masriadis paintings have grotesque uncommon tarrying parts
of ugly appearances set in large athletic body elements. The
appearance of grotesque elements in the comical witty figures
construct humorous criticism of the political body, yet at the same
time it is satirical. Humorists criticize satirizing components of
political activity; there are components that attract painting works.
Masriadi is a Balinese artist who is based in Yogyakarta. His not
amongst other artists of Bali who paint beautiful natural scenery,
but Masriadi clearly and expressly sees the Balinese culture as an
avenue that forms a foundation of spiritual life and precision in the
development of works and objects (Sabapathy 2010)

Dirty Talk, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 150 cm

Whilst observing the works of Nyoman Masriadi we frequently
come across a repetition of terrifying wild face appearances that
have a combination of a weird and proper body but are nevertheless
concealed with ticking and criticizing writings. His works are rich in
ambiguity. We can see wild and dark humour, but behind the usually
black coloured muscle there is a glance of political power and
violence" (Sabapathy 2010).
It is obvious that satire is daily oppression. We often listen to
satire every day either in the form of jokes or admonition-anger.

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Ideas line-up as Masriadi reminds us that satiric activity is usually
taken up in human daily life. As well as being seen as something
insignificant there is also deep meaning that discloses the truth. He
is very clever when he uses both grotesque and satirical
commentary words. Most of his work is potentially humorous.
Behind the horribleness of his work, There is a construction of
reasonable criticizing and ridiculous humor. The deformation of
gigantic figures have dominated his paintings and are tickling,
criticizing and have full of meaning of life.

Marathon, 2008, Acrylic on canvas

One of Masriadis works that depicts satirical humour and also

body politics is Marathon 2008. The body is the pictures topic and
its subject; its representation, function and affect are pretended. Its
portrayal, scope and impact are perfectly accomplished. Six figures
are painted in mid-stride, pumping their arms in order to maintain
their counterpoise escalating speed, straining their legs and backs
to gain acceleration, yet grinning loudly from their useless effort. On
the other hand is a female figure in front of the Marathon, with her
nipples censored so as to delete or suppress the female body;
weighted and articulated, expansively. By inflating the body Masriadi
tries to change the assumption of altered states and asserts potency
and hugeness. The combative running activity of the figures hints at
analogies with machines and human-machine connotations. A lot of
interpretations are strengthened by the treatment of body, which at
times, appears as constructed diverse components that are
contrived as mechanized units (Sabapathy 2010).
Masriadis art practice and his artistic works are
complemented with various
considerations. His preservation on making works is faithful to (1)
composition and content, (2) high quality and reliable technique, (3)
natural humour that apply in his words, context and deformed
figures, (4) personal and social surroundings that descend upon his
thoughts, life and working methods as he records in his art as

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illustrated in published commentaries on diverse analyzing,
internalizing their import and makes his own interpretations. (5) the
engagement of satire which at some length has a fistful of jokes
(Sabapathy 2010).
Most of the sources that can be found are only in T.K Sabapathys
book; Nyoman Reconfiguring The Body. Masriadis works are
remarkable because looking outside the commercial side and his
concept of humour and reconfiguring body, Masriadi has created his
own characteristic and ideology beyond where he has come from.
He can create art works that are different with the surroundings. He
injects his personal life as well as imagination into art work. He
depicts unimportant daily activity issues that we are not aware of.
He explores the context of daily life issues into a bigger context and
combines simple jokes within an incredible technique and unique
composition. The figures body reflects satirical jokes and critical
criticism towards society.

Chapter III
Indicating humorous action or remarks that is intended to provoke
laughter, my work bridges these two elements into a platform of
criticism. My work may not be humorous or funny but nevertheless I
try to depict and twist the major function. A manifestation of
humour laughter into another level, as a platform to criticize
certain issues. Through these studies I try to investigate and
experiment how laughter can produce a powerful message that is
geared towards social and political issues.
While portraying complex narratives and symbolism, satire
and laughter are the predominant themes in my work, while at the
same time identifying issues that are of concern to the public. My
work explores the concept of HAHA. It is my concept which is
inspired by laughter and text messages which an illustration of
expressing laughter in two different dimension. I am trying to fusion
two different dimension of laughter on the real life and laughter
expression as in when we are texting and chatting. As an
Indonesian, I am attempting to merge this concept with my criticism
of the current state of affairs of the socio-political organizations in
my country.
My work explores and illustrates how the perspective of laugh
can describe the political and social world by twisting the role of
laughter. Indeed, my work is not nominated as humourous art. I
want to coquet the scenery of humour and yet at the same time
having a serious manner. So from its perspective, my work seems


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humorous and funny. This is due to the domination of laughing
figures and HAHA which is inspired from text and chat messages.
Somehow the HAHA with capital words represents an infinite
expression of laughter, joy or even mockery.
I want to combine that idea into something that can create
conversation and critique. But nevertheless when it is observed and
studied deeply it is not about jokes. Through my work, I believe I can
illustrate laughter as a critical and visual motive. Many artists have
worked within a serious manner of conceptual art, which makes the
objects and concepts so intense and deep. By projecting laughing
figures, HAHA on the front line and of course joy within a happy
situation, the tense of intensive and complex art can be reduced.

The Art of Collecting (2013)

By depicting political satire in paintings and installation work, I am
attempting to come to terms with power, desire and interests that
are predominant in my culture. Through theoretical and artist
reference study I am inclined to step out of my cultural background
and into a new setting in order to approach humour on a universal
level. I now feel my work, as revealed within an Indonesian context
as humour and laughter is also universal to human culture. As
shown within the following work titled The Art Collecting, painted
in 2013 by mixed media. The work represents satire criticism
towards the art world, especially the art market. There are three
laughing figures that dominate the scenery and represent collectors.
They gradually look at a piece of sculpture that is surrounded by
writings and give across an expression of confusedness, funny and
yet shocking due to seeing the price tag of the sculpture.
The work has a metaphoric element such as pink rectangles
that represent frames of paintings. This shows the scenery
exhibition environment as arranged systematically. There are some

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writings that adorn the painting. These writings are not for
decoration, but give an explanation that shows satirical criticism.
Beneath the sculpture for instance there is a price tag of
$205.000.000 following some descriptions that surround the statue.
This represents the value of the art work. Meanwhile opposite the
statue there are three males laughing sinisterly with some small text
near their fancy suits. Made in Italy and $5000 explains how fancy
they are and glamourous. This is obvious satire and critique towards
the art work especially the art market today and shows how art has
been contaminated with commercialism and excessiveness.

The Art of Collecting, 2013 Acrylic on Canvas

Hypocrisy (2013)
Laughter creates the possibility of disguise. Especially in this
contemporary era disguise is one of the main issues. The painting
titled Hypocrisy is painted with acrylic, crayons & coloured pencils
and is a portrayal of human behavior who always talks badly about
each other; seeking the ugliness from each individual and the
practice of professing beliefs, feelings or virtues that one does not
hold. This behavioral pattern happens in every system, in every
region and in every single country around the world when people try
to protest against the government and towards its policies. Even
inside the government, we see and hear parliament members who


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try to mock their own leaders and each other; some even reach the
point of betraying their leaders. Even though they were the same
ones who elected their leaders, it is them who humiliate the former.

Hypocrisy, 2013 Acrylic on Canvas

The painting shows four people laughing at a monkey. This
illustrates how some politicians mock and laugh at the president.
The monkey symbolizes a disappointed and frustrated leader. This is
due to the chaos in the country and the political pressures that
surround him. This condition represents capitalism, as the leader is
just a puppet for certain people to implement the system, with
powerless leadership. The naivety and messiness of paintings
symbolize the complexity of society and politics in Indonesia.

Berlindung di Balik Jubah Baja (Hiding behind the Armour) (2015)

Inspired by recent political conflict in Indonesia and also historical

propaganda, is the work titled Berlindung di Balik Jubah Baja (Hiding
Behind the Armour). The work illustrates various metaphoric
elements. It represents criticism towards authorities or politicians
who hide behind their incumbency that is represented by the heavy
iron clad. They use their power for their own personal gains and this
triggers much criticism and resentment. Historical backgrounds are


Naufal Abshar
implied in the work. The painting projects three armoured medieval
knights of the crusaders. Back in history the crusader knights were
respected by people. This was due to their fighting and service in
the name of holy war against gods enemy, power and mightiness.
Being powerful, they used their power blindly by bringing down so
much wealth and power. In fact, this can also be connected with
todays ruler.
One should bear in mind, whilst the context of politics and
power has been applied within this situation as a way to advance it,
a number of compositions have been developed in this painting.
There are three main colours that represent a metaphorical
connection, which are yellow, red and green. These colors are
emblems of the first three most powerful political parties in
Indonesia, Golkar (yellow), PDI (red), PPP (green) displaying the first
authorities during Orde Baru (the new order). These parties
representing 3 different power backgrounds Golkar ( Party if the
Functional Groups) is the government party supported by the
military, PDI ( The Indoneisan Democratic Party) initiated by the five
Nationalist and non-Islamic Parties, and PPP (United Development
Party) is Islamist party in Indonesia (Daruisama 2014). The armour
represents power, protection and hiding. The scope for representing
the figure is widened in this work. One laughing figure stands
dominantly in front and holds a donkey mask which is fully visible to
the spectator. The donkey imagery applied in the costume and as a
mask represents a ruler who acts like a donkey, is foolish and
uncompromising. The two iron masks behind show a body as the
guard who always protects the ruler where ever he goes. The
imagery of television in the guard plates is a representation of how
the media controls the scenario of what is happening within the
political condition today.


Naufal Abshar

Berlindung Dibalik Jubah Baja (Hiding behind the armor), 2015

Acrylic, Soft Pastel & Drawing pen on canvas

Despite the influence from my artist references and theories, I

always try to install my local context, apart from the reaction to the
concept of humour, which seems to be closely related to political
issues especially in Indonesia.

Fishing Catch Games (2015)

Laughter represents a symbol of rejection and protest that is located
not only in anti political matter but can be universal scenery that
occurs in society. Be it a critique for current or historical issues.
Fishing Catch Games is reflecting current political issues that
occurred in Indonesia. Five figures running are arranged with
different uniforms. Three of them run near the pictures front edge,
dominant and are fully visible to the viewer. Each figure holds a net


Naufal Abshar
stick and tries to catch each other. There is one figure whos stuck
with a net as though he gets caught up.

Fishing Catch Games, 2015, Acrylic and soft pastel on canvas

The work is a critical representation towards the Indonesian
parliament, institutions as well as depicting criticism globally. It
portrays the recent conflict in Indonesia between the police and the
Corruption Eradication institution (KPK). The clash between
parliament have a connection with each members personal
vengeance and has escalated into a national problem. The initial
action was the apprehension of the corruption institution (KPK) vice
chairman by the police forces due to falsification of evidence.
Afterwards KPK retaliated by impeachment and arrest of a police
general due to corruption (Clough 2015). Instead they should not fight
against each other, but should work together as a team to build the
country, not to submerge with their own revenge and problems. The
work projects how they arrest each other and is symbolized by
figures playing catch-catch. The laughing figures illustrate how this
issue has transformed and has become a parody and joke for the
people, especially Indonesians, as this always occurs. Eko
Nugrohos methods of placing texts have referenced in most of my
works. Giving small texts to support the context of the scenery in
the painting, the text written stated malah gua yang kena (why i got
caught up) and this is your turn, and follow with You are next are
role as dry criticism.


Naufal Abshar

Chapter IV
To conclude, I believe humour has streched beyond entertainment,
therapy and a social platform. It has a complex cognitive theory and
also its manifestation affect human life. Humour can be applied to
various representations as well as in art. Various artists have
explored many different interpretations towards humour. Satire,
criticism and body politics are different manifestation of humour
that have been used within the context of the artists art practices. I
personally believe these practices are a successful achievement, a
renewal strategy that conveys criticism and expression. By injecting
laughter as a platform we can refine the process so that no one get
hurts and offended.
Comparing various different theories and artist references
help to explores my art practices. Depicting elements and thoughts
from artist references helps me to build the articulation of context,
styles and character. By analyzing each individual work I am able to
absorb and consider which element relates with what practice. For
example the presence of theory in humour as a social critique.
Humour can be used to bridge the gap between politics and society.
Humour crosses the form of raw criticism and uses the metaphoric
elements by illustrating non-rigid strategy for criticism. Humour as a
tool, as in my work is laughter. Symbolically and generally, laughter
conveys criticism, body politics and even momentousness. These
are powers that are full of sensations and are stimulated by their
tendencies for visual realization. My engagement and preference for
HAHA texts is not aimed at accentuating its decoration values, it is
to embed its pictorial atmosphere with imagination and immensity
that wraps them with words.
My work is not aimed to be funny. My theoretical foundation as
shown in chapter 1 is humour and its manifestation which is mainly
shown through the domination by man who rules and suppresses

Naufal Abshar
the political scenery. Men politicians have used their power, not only
towards male but also women. Using laughter as a platform I want
to project what is happening within society and political field. I
believe criticism, in a socio-political context can be pictured within
laughter. The political scenery is a parody; funny yet at the same
time serious. The concept of humour seems to be very entertaining
and full of joy. Nevertheless it is also a very solid element in the
areas of human life and psychology. Humour branches out to many
elements and can change the human mindset. My work looks simple
and joyful from the outside by painting in a colorful manner with
laughing figures that create un logical activities. When observing
and studying more about the philosophy and theory behind my
work, I hope that people will realize there is something deep inside
it. Some people may call it a picture that paints a thousand

Spiller, Henry. How Not to Act like a woman: Gender Ideolgy and
Humor in West Java, Indonesia. Honolulu, Hawai: University of
Hawai'i Press, 2012.
Palmer, Jerry. Taking Humor Seriously. London: Routledge, 1994.
Polimeni, Joseph, and Jeffrey P.Reiss. "the First Joke: Exploring the
Evolutionary Origins of Humor." Evolutionary Psychology, 2006: 2.
Smith, Melinda, and Jeanne Segal. Laughter is The Best Medicine. 12
2014. (accessed 02 05, 2015).
Wettergren, Asa. "Fun and Laughter: Culture Jamming and the
Emotional Regime of Late Capitalism." Social Movement Studies:
Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest, January 2009.
Yeh, Dianda. Yue Minjun: The Wisdom of Fools. July 23, 2003.
Martin, Rod A. The Psycology of Humor and Integrative Approach.
Ontario: University of Western Ontario, 2007.
Attardo, Salvatore. Encyclopedia of Humor Studies. Edited by
Thomas E. Ford, Sharon Lockyer and Owen Hanley Lynch. texas:
Texas A & M University-commerce.
Arndt, Matthias. "Sip! Indonesian Art Today." arntdberlin. Optimal
Media Gmbh, Robel.Muritz. 2013.
ArtToday.pdf (accessed 02 03, 2015).
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(accessed March 11, 105).
R, and Rod a Martin. The Psychology of Humor: Integmtive
Approach. London: University of Western Ontario.
Kincaid, James R. Introduction- The Nature of Laughter. Univesity of
Southern California. March 2010.
(accessed March 19, 2015).


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Singmund, Freud. The Joke and its relation to the unconscious
(Freud, s. Edited by Schuyler Handerson. March 21, 2008. (accessed March 19, 2015).
Sabapathy, T.K. Nyoman Masriadi Reconfiguring The Body.
Singapore: Gajah Gallery, 2010.
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(accessed March 2015, 19).
Billig, Michael. Laughter and Ridicule. Nottingham: Nottingham Trent
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03, 2015).
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Freud, Sigmund. Bio Sigmund Freud Biography . 2015. (accessed April 2015,
Daruisama, Naru. Partai Politik Masa Orde Baru. December 17,
2014. (accessed April 8, 2015).
Clough, Jim. KPK vs Polri: Children of light and children of darkness.
February 18, 2015. (accessed April 8,

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