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Janks Archive

JANKS ARCHIVE (a project by NYC-based artists Ben Kinsley, Jessica Langley, and Jerstin Crosby) is an ongoing investigation and collection of insult humor from around the world. Since 2012 they have taken this project to cities such as Philadelphia, Mexico City, Berlin, Belfast, Riga, and Kaunas. In each place they visit, they talk to residents and learn about local versions of these types of insulting jokes. They record people telling their jokes, which are put into a worldwide video archive, as well as represented in art installations, publications, and screenings.

Insults are an ancient oral tradition embedded within the collective consciousness of a culture or region with inherent ties to human social evolution. How people insult one another and what is perceived to be “bad” or “unattractive” differs from place to place, as does the word used to describe these jokes (the term “janks,” for instance, is what put-down jokes are called in Alabama). While the intention appears, at first, to be cruel and negative, “janks” are in fact an integral aspect of human interaction, used as much to establish dominance as to strengthen camaraderie.

Ben Kinsley and Jessica Langley were artists-in-residence at Platform from December 2015 to January 2016. Their project, Janks Archive, is a video collection of insult humor from around the world. From 19-22 December they created an installation in the Info Kiosk in Vaasa’s Market Square, and collected jokes in Finnish and Swedish. The fruits of the residency among other “janks” were exhibited at the Queens international 2016, Queens Museum, NYC.

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