Limerick, Ireland
Common Culture, Comic Battle, 2008, 3-screen video installation, 11 minutes 51 seconds

Common Culture (David Campbell, Mark Durden, Ian Brown)


Common Culture explores the processes by which issues of taste, class and notions of national identity are negotiated through the transaction of commodities within popular culture. Their latest work develops their previous focus on object-based commodity forms into an examination of how the culture industry routinely commodifies human labour and experience as entertainment.

The ‘stand-up’ comedy routine is a familiar device for the reflection and analysis of human relationships. Delivered as a popular form of entertainment, the comics’ observations are driven by their own social experience, informed by a sense of who they are and how they relate to a world they share with their audience. Their ‘local’ views on the ‘big’ issues of relationships – identity, sexuality, race, class and politics – mark their stories as funny and potentially insightful.

In Comic Battle, three comedians are hired to respond to topics introduced by Common Culture. Each performer is simultaneously filmed delivering their comic response to a fixed camera, competing with each other to crack the funniest joke, demonstrate their comic ability and hold the attention of the viewer. The topic prompts were ordinary enough: a joke about nationality, reality TV, and their own sexual prowess – the raw stuff of comedy routines. But standing on the stage, in earshot of each other, the manipulative nature of their contracted performance becomes more acute. The ‘battle’ is not just with each other to be the funniest, it is also against the camera and the viewer beyond who shapes the form of their performance.

(Text: too early for vacation catalogue, 2008)

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