Created with Sketch.
Created with Sketch.

Laughing Prohibited! / Verboden te Lachen!

On the comic and the prophecy.

Onomatopee 37

Laughing prohibited! engages with humour as a technical tool for creatives. Humour consists in many tones of voice and many shapes to visualise. Laughing prohibited! asks the visitor to take a further look into the matter: what does the work put forth? Laughing prohibited! debates the quality of the artistic freedom of expression, against the background of the Danish caricatures.


With: Anthony Kleinepier, Atelier Van Lieshout, Bas van Beek, Erwin Wurm (AT), Daniel Eatock (UK), Jorre van Ast, Heim Steimbach (US), Helmut Smits, Marti Guixe (ES), Oooms, Atelier Ted Noten, Lara de Greef.



Laughing Prohibited! enhances an exchange of experiences and knowledge about humour. When do we laugh, why do we laugh and when should we laugh? Laughing Prohibited! shows us techniques, strategies and issues of conception and representation. This relates immediately to the classic issues of design processes: the form and context of production.


We live our daily lives without questioning too much, otherwise we would ’not be able to function’ as we are used to say. This notion, ’not being able to function’, tells us a lot. We look at ourselves within the framework of a machine, operating within certain constraints. These constrains are norms and values, conventions in the form of social codes and control. All of these constrains are mere estimates: we are unsure of their actual extent. Therefore, we are also unsure of the legitimacy of these constraints. Nevertheless we hold on to a social body founded on these presuppositions. We ourselves regulate and maintain this order; and call it self-regulation.

As soon as someone breaks this chain of presupposed rules, we ourselves break: we feel the need to laugh, to determine the break as humorous. Through this mechanism, artists have been able to address many issues without taking any immediate responsibility. Thus, counter-perspectives could be voiced, and structures and individuals could be questioned. This exhibition aims to take responsibility and defend our liberties.


But currently, this domain is not so safe anymore. The war against terror effectively silences the court jester, accusing him a demagoguery of the fictitious. We can recognize these accusations in the debates on the Danish Mohammed cartoons, the counter-cartoons by the Arab European League, jestingly denying the Holocaust. Seriousness is taking over, suppressing humor as a tool to propose different perspectives. Seriousness silences the debate. What is the current status of (artistic) freedom of speech? To what extent can artistic imagination, throught the use of ‘humour’, catalyze our relations for the better?


The works on display in Laughing Prohibited! claim that the world is not enough! If we resign ourselves to what we are seeing, we will not understand it. There is more to relate to than desire. The current socio-economic and socio-political context is demanding more of us. We need to face our material and social environment, because we are part of it. A multitude of perspectives is shows itself, perspectives that change the relation between us and the world around us. All of these perspectives break the chain of conventions that regulate our liberties. In Laughing Prohibited!, these perspectives release visual and discursive data that exceed the regular conventions of social, moral, visual or cultural frameworks and restrictions. They reframe the status quo. It is up to you to take account of them and to frame yourself!

In design, humour is increasingly often used as a tool: intentionally or purposely, witty or stale.  Verboden te lachen! (Laughing prohibited! ) shows different expressions of humour in design: the bitter laugh and the wry laugh, progressive and conservative. Onomatopee aims to make you aware of your laughter: why do you laugh, when do you laugh along with others, and what is it precisely that you laugh about