Laughing Matter

They Are Here

“Why does Art hate me? I never did anything to Art.”  
Homer Simpson

Collective practice They Are Here expand their dialogue with ‘precarious’ Londoners through a series of exchanges, workshops and live performances.

Working within the networks of local community and activist groups, including the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO), Migrants Organise, The Independent Workers Union, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service and X–Talk – which support the intersection of sex workers’ and migrants’ rights – They Are Here circulated an invitation to a series of free stand–up comedy workshops led by professional comedian Logan Murray.

These workshops culminated in ROUTINE, a performance comprising two nights of live stand–up comedy delivered by the participants.

ROUTINE was staged within an immersive installation of new works informed by the process, including a sculpture which took its cue from Homer’s line in Season 10 Episode 19 of The Simpsons, “Lisa, that’s it! I’ve got an idea for a wonderful art project that’ll make everyone love me again! Step one: steal all the doormats in town”.

They Are Here also presented a sound installation made up of audio recordings of friends, colleagues, neighbours and strangers laughing. These recordings have been edited to produce ‘canned laughter’ categorised by and attributed to different precarious groups.

In the context of a heightened awareness of fake news, the demands of emotional labour and a proliferation of digitally manipulated disembodied voices in public space, the artists ask ‘what is laughter without the bodies that produce it?’.


Durational performance
Thursday 24 May 2018

The Simpsons Symposium, Organised by They Are Here

Saturday 26 May 2018

A screening and discussion with Harminder Judge, Nina Power, Rosalie Schweiker and They Are Here.

Taking its cue from They Are Here’s new work, Welcome (2018) – which is inspired by a line from Homer Simpson in the episode Mom & Pop Art (1999) – the artists convened a panel of Simpsons’ enthusiasts.

Their discussions touched on The Lisa Simpson Book Club, notable predictions of the future in the series, as well as the recent documentary The Problem With Apu (2017). Attendees were also welcomed to share their favourite clips via YouTube.

About the contributors

Harminder Judge is an artist working across performance, installation, sculpture, print and video. He is currently undertaking a postgraduate fine art programme at the Royal Academy. In the last six months he has been developing material techniques inspired by Indian Tantric painting, continuing ongoing explorations of Western esotericism and Eastern mysticism.

Rosalie Schweiker is an artist. Her contribution to the Simpsons Symposium is in collaboration with her Simpsons obsessed brother Stefan Schweiker.

Nina Power is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and the author of many texts on philosophy, politics and culture.


Saturday 2 June 2018 and Sunday 3 June 2018

Collective practice They Are Here presented ROUTINE, an evening of live comedy by Londoners living precariously.

This new performance was initiated with an invitation to community activist groups across London to attend a series of free stand–up comedy workshops led by professional comedian Logan Murray. Participating groups include Migrants Organise, Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation Brixton, the Independent Workers Union, X–Talk and the Latin American Women’s Rights Service.

Amongst the participants were a Bulgarian cleaner turned small business owner, a rat–catcher, a refugee living in an East London anarchist squat, a sex–worker, a freelance writer and a Deliveroo courier. The performances comprised a series of five minute routines presented in the gallery which has temporarily transformed into a comedy club, guest compered by The White Pube.

ROUTINE offered a platform for Londoners living precariously to practice comedy as a vehicle to address the politics and intersection of self–representation, migration and the gig economy.

About They Are Here

They Are Here (f. 2006) is a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker and Harun Morrison, currently based in London and on the River Lea.

Their recent projects, performances and exhibitions include 40 Temps, 8 Days, Tate Modern, London; The People Behind The Financial System: Sweden, Konsthall C, Stockholm; PLEASE IDENTIFY YOURSELF, Furtherfield, London; Tantalus, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (all 2017); Precarity Centre: B5 5RS, Grand Union, Birmingham; Offshore Transactions, River Lea, UP Projects (both 2016) and Location Scouts, South London Gallery, London (2015). In June 2016, They Are Here co–founded Ayandeh Garden, a community–growing project in Finsbury Park involving young adult refugees and asylum seekers.

Laughing Matter formed part of In Residence, a new strand of Studio Voltaire’s Participation Programme which supports artists with a particular focus on public and social practice, connecting the gallery with our locality over an extended period of time.

Laughing Matter was commissioned by Studio Voltaire. Supported by Battersea Power Station Foundation, Aziz Foundation and Lambeth Community Events Fund.

ROUTINE was commissioned in partnership with Block Universe. With special thanks to Battersea Arts Centre, Somerset House Studios and MayDay Rooms.

All images courtesy of They Are Here. Credit Indre Neiberkaite and James Allen.

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