Featuring wildly popular comedian David Alan Grier on a lushly colored, multi-channel video, The Alchemy of Comedy...Stupid examines the nuances and structures, rapture and pathos of jokes, comedy routines, and the relationship between performer and audience. By destabilizing our familiarity with the joke and its context, Edgar Arceneaux reveals existing but rarely acknowledged possibilities for unique, coherent meaning created from non-linear logic. The exhibition serves to highlight comedy as an alchemical process: its ability to turn pathos into entertainment and debased material into gold.
Intercut among the multiple screens are reconfigured video segments of Grier debuting poignantly difficult material, his interactions with audience members and awkward moments of anticipation or rumination. The video and a single-channel companion piece were shot in Chicago in May 2005, primarily on the University of Illinois at Chicago's campus at the UIC Theater and the Science and Engineering Building, as well as a local Chicago bar. They and accompanying works in drawing and sculpture are the culmination of Gallery 400's commission of the artist that was initiated in 2004. A catalogue documenting the project along with an essay by exhibition organizer Lorelei Stewart was published in Summer 2006.