The “Humor and Subversion in Art and Design” Symposium was held for the very first time at BTK University of Art and Design in Hamburg. Among the speakers was sculptor, illustrator, and carnival float designer Jacques Tilly, who spoke on rolling satire.
“Laughter is dangerous. That is because laughing is an effective, nonviolent, and friendly weapon to destroy fear,” emphasized the artist. “Fear is the most important instrument of power for totalitarian ideologies. And we cannot handle such threats with kid gloves. So we must become trained in the civilized culture of dispute. Humor, satire, and ridicule come into play,” he explains further. For the carnival, it means: “We must be able to disparage and mock what is ridiculous, and we must be allowed to offend. Make them ridiculous, make fun of them, expose them, all those misanthropes great and small! But in a civilized fashion. Being civilized means: not just with arguments, but also with sharp polemic, biting satire, and bucketloads of ridicule, however without violence, hate, contempt, dehumanization, and the construction of new enemies. This balancing act must and can succeed,” Jacques Tilly sums up.
“Humor is a central element of resistance by the people, especially in politically charged times and in an age of increasing fear of terror with real threats to life and limb, such as in the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Carnivals operate in the interplay between satire, society, and politics,” explains Prof. Gora Jain. “Humor as a form of intellectual and political opposition is a vital component of human lateral thinking. Its public representation and presence are therefore fundamental to safeguarding the freedom of expression and democratic thinking. The carnival thus offers an extremely fitting and effective communication platform.”