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Anna Franceschini – VILLA STRAYLIGHT @DSL Studio
After Laughter Comes Tears

A performative exhibition in four acts

After Laughter Comes Tears is the second edition of the Mudam Performance Season, an experimental exhibition dedicated to performance, launched in 2021. Conceived as a ‘performative exhibition’, After Laughter Comes Tears will feature the work of thirty-five artists working across the mediums of performance, installation and video. Titled after the 1964 track ‘After Laughter’ by American soul singer and songwriter Wendy Rene, the exhibition will unfold in four acts, mimicking a theatrical narrative. By considering moving image and installation as much as the exhibition and its scenography as performative objects, After Laughter Comes Tears proposes to expand the definition of performance. Simultaneously, it grounds the medium of performance within the museum, which traditionally hosts it as an occasional and timed utterance.

The exhibition takes as its starting point the feeling of stasis and anger that defines this later stage of capitalism endorsed by most societies. It is framed by the anxieties of a generation facing a climate crisis, welfare states trampled and failed by neoliberal policies and the rise of xenophobia and far-right parties across the globe, partly fuelled by fake news spreading on- and offline. Adopting the humorous, and at times, dramatic tone that is characteristic of theatricality and embracing the ambiguity that exists between those states, After Laughter Comes Tears unfolds through a narrative that speaks to and of bodies, politics and their fraught relationship under capitalist systems. The works of emerging artists, in dialogue with more established ones, will consider the crisis of care and deeply entrenched notions of normalcy, aiming to make visible and thereby question standardised approaches to social and biological norms.

Is laughter the best medicine to soothe despair? Humour – and at times, cynicism – is a characteristic feature of contemporary internet culture, which uses memes and gifs as producers of a brand of humour tapping into our shared sense of sarcasm. Drawing from the ironical tone that we identify as being that of a disillusioned generation, as well as from a long history of satirical resistance, the exhibition sets a stage for play with the tensions and frictions inextricably linking comedy and tragedy. Tragicomedy is also a popular theatre genre, circling back to the roots of performance as a discipline. It evokes a sense of drama and the expression of feelings, a rollercoaster of emotions animating the body. Facial expressions and bodily reactions linked to fear, exhaustion, rage, disgust, affection and pleasure – feelings that merge and coexist within each one of us, are expressed differently according to personal and collective histories. Like humour, they are not just intuitive, individual reactions, but rather depend on social and cultural contexts.

With this in mind, After Laughter Comes Tears intends to explore how our bodies and minds react and cope with the drama we are currently living through. What is capitalism doing to them? Are self-care and self-help the only answer? What is considered healthy, who is considered beautiful? Which bodies are celebrated, which ones are made invisible? What bodies are cared for and who provides that care? How do those who have been neglected look after themselves? The artists participating in the exhibition all have an idiosyncratic way of approaching notions of care and normativity, acknowledging the body as intrinsically political and as part of the collective. They will consider the relationship between body and mind, and with benevolence as much as wittiness celebrate the abject of our flesh, embrace exhaustion and contemplate eroticism.

To resist a conventional approach in display, After Laughter Comes Tears will create a dynamic exhibition space, changing through time to offer a variety of experiences to the visitor. During the exhibition, the works will also be activated via performances or via an active participation of the visitors, encouraged to leave aside the passive role that is too often expected of them in cultural institutions. The public will therefore get the central part in a collective thinking process brought about by a rich public programme.


Mudam Galleries Level 0
  • Joel Valabrega, with Clémentine Proby

  • Cem A.
    Monira Al Qadiri
    Panteha Abareshi
    Kate Cooper
    Pauline Curnier Jardin
    Jesse Darling
    Jean-Charles de Quillacq
    Marijke De Roover
    Stine Deja
    Omer Fast
    Anna Franceschini
    Sidsel Meineche Hansen
    Lukáš Hofmann
    Christian Jankowski
    Chris Korda
    Ndayé Kouagou
    Ghislaine Leung
    Guan Xiao
    Isaac Lythgoe
    Taus Makhacheva
    Diego Marcon
    Jacopo Miliani
    Marie Munk
    Chalisée Naamani
    Agnieszka Polska
    Mika Rottenberg
    Julika Rudelius
    Dorian Sari
    Sin Wai Kin
    Shinuk Suh
    Martine Syms
    Mungo Thomson
    Cajsa Von Zeipel
    Artur Żmijewski