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between the joke and me

If we hold that a work of art is completed by the audience—that the viewer, not the artist, ultimately determines the work’s textual meaning—how, then, does the artist reconcile their role in contributing to the meaning of their own work? 


With this question of co-authored meaning as its impetus, Between the Joke and Me began as an experiment in generating content without conscious authorial intent, an exploration in minimizing the artist’s agency over the meaning-making process while simultaneously aiming to maximize the number and variety of potential textual readings available to the viewer. 


Between the Joke and Me’s theatrical scenes, perched between the ritualistic and comedic, are composites of disparate pieces of found media forged together to co-opt, layer, and obfuscate the structural readings of their varied sources. In order to prevent the wielding of any pre-existing meaning, sources were selected on the requisite grounds of randomness and unfamiliarity. Imagery lifted from film stills, historical documents, thrift store photo piles, descriptions of dreams, and social media screenshots—chosen strictly on the basis of nescience and aesthetic intrigue to the artist—were compiled into a database from which they would be deconstructed, intervened, and amalgamated to create absurdist scenes void of intentional narrative or symbolic significance. 


The parameters and execution of this experiment are admittedly flawed, falling short of putting forth a rigorous methodology with which to remove the artist’s hand entirely in the generation of meaning. The acts of selecting and staging source imagery, no matter how randomized by design, would ultimately result in subconscious preferences and decisions constituting an authorial intent. However, the question at the core of this undertaking remains: does work created without intended meaning still carry the potential to be meaningful?

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