Sholem Krishtalka

I’m Highbrow, Dammit!!

I was once told, by my boyfriend, the very same boyfriend with whom I share this curatorial space, that I only like movies where people get hit in the crotch with footballs and fall down. And while I feel compelled to point out that this was his method of “consoling” me after a particularly vicious and emotionally devastating film, I also feel compelled to admit that it’s partly true.

I am a highly educated man, born of highly educated parents. I have two university degrees; I regularly attend cultural events; I’m well-spoken, articulate, and enjoy the fine art of the debate; at one point, I had simultaneous subscriptions to The New Yorker and ArtForum; I have an appreciation for music, literature, art; I’m an artist, for God’s sake! And gay! I don’t know what other signifiers of aesthetic cultivation I can haul out of my ass, here!!


“Middle-Aged Women Mostly Falling Down” (2006)

And yet, and yet…nothing will make me laugh so much and so spontaneously as someone falling down. A fat woman gets hit in the face with a dodgeball on a TV show, and I am hysterical, screeching with glee, and Jon, who has sat through the 7-hour epic “Our Hitler: A Film From Germany” twice, who can sit through a Lars Von Trier film without crying, who has enthusiastically consumed the skin-crawling oeuvre of Catherine Breillat, who loves the emotional sadism of a Michael Haneke film, looks at me and shakes his head. And I am too busy heaving with laughter to tell him to fuck off.


Fox5, “Grape Lady Falls!” (2006)

I’m not proud of it; I know that others’ pain isn’t funny; and yet, and yet… I laugh. I know the theories of comedy — that we laugh at slapstick out of nervous shock, that we delight because we feel safe in the recognition that that (almost surely) physically painful humiliating loss of dignity did not happen to us. A Laurel and Hardy version of the Sublime, I suppose. It makes a certain amount of sense, but I don’t find it convincing.

A former philosophy teacher once told me that books on how to be a better lover fail for the same reason that you can’t teach someone to tell a good joke. Funny is funny, and you just can’t explain it. Moreover, funny is elusive; the more you try and explain it, the more it escapes you, and the more you sound like a prig as you try and find your way back to the joke.


extremclipstv, “Different Bloopers and Funny Mishaps” (2005)

-Sholem Krishtalka

Ryeberg Curator Bio

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Sholem is a painter and a writer. His writing has appeared in Canadian Art Magazine, Bookforum Online, C Magazine, CBC Arts Online (among others) and in various artist's catalogues. His artwork has been exhibited in numerous venues around Toronto and New York. He is featured in the survey of Canadian painting "Carte Blanche 2: Painting," published by the Magenta Foundation. For more Sholem Krishtalka, click here.