Excerpt “Blue Material”, original length 14:42 min in loop
The history of stand-up comedy is a long-standing, but complicated one. Today’s comedy in it’s many forms are by and large all adaptations of funny acts from variety theatre, most popular in Vaudeville (US) and Music Hall (UK). Spanning several centuries of mass entertainment, these public acts were historically subject to heavy etiquette and censorship.
‘Blue Material’ (2015) is a historical reference to how the Lord Chamberlain used to run through a comedian’s script and censor all material that could possibly be considered disruptive by underlining these sentences with a blue pencil. These underlined parts of the comedian’s script are also referred to as the ‘blue material’, deemed unsuitable to be performed on stage and chargeable by imprisonment should the act deviate from his ruling.
In a reversal of these historic facts, Hannan has provided comedian Adam Fields with documents that were never intended to be seen or spoken about in public, such as leaked documents from the NSA, GCHQ and CIA. Giving Fields artistic freedom to use these Top Secret documents as a foundation for his act, the artist asked him to “use them to make a funny stand-up show”. Subsequently, the comedian’s performance was played out in absence of an audience.
The video-registration of his act and an installation that reattributes the elements used in his performance are shown in two separate, adjacent spaces.
Fusing the obscure and the public, the visual arts and comedy and the past and the present, ‘Blue Material’ unfolds itself as an exhibition of interconnected works with a serious approach to laughing matters.