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Project: Mel Ziegler's 1000 Laughs Project

Conceptual artist Mel Ziegler is working with APSU students on an exciting community arts project this year, 1000 Laughs. Mel and students will be working to capture 1000 laughs at locatiosn across the social and geographic spectrum of Clarksville, TN. Each student will be charged with way across Clarksville - into homes, civic meetings, stores and events - to capture in jars the laughter that illustrates the bonds of community. These jars will be annoted and then sandblasted with the time, place and folks that make up life in Clarksville, TN. Come and join us as we attempt to examine and highlight the sounds and connections that make our community so vibrant. Contact Prof Paul Collins at to get involved today!

Artist Statement

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”― Will Rodgers

Laughing is a complicated matter.  It occurs socially all around us at all times and in all places.  Though we might laugh by ourselves it most likely occurs as a social act between two or more people.  I am interested in this common occurrence that is part of our daily routine which gets little acknowledgement.  How can we map the occurrence of laughter throughout a community.   By an act of witnessing and collecting a laugh we create a point on a map through a unique and unusual way.  We are constructing a community of social interaction through the laugh in all places and at all times.  The witness, by the testament of collecting, becomes our proxy to the community and authenticates the laugh in all its glory at the very moment of capturing it.  Thus, placing it in a very particular location and time  within the community.

What happens when we capture this laughter?  When we collect it in a jar? Is it a potential symphony of collected laughs?  Or is it silenced?  Here in 1000 Laughs I set out to create this dichotomy; that of the witnessed and socially interactive laugh collected in the Clarksville and Fort Campbell communities juxtaposed to the jarred collection of potential laughter presented in the gallery in hoards of clear glass containers. 

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people, even more than words. It represents a psychological space from which we develop relationships with other humans.  It is truly the beginning of all community. 

About the Artist

Mel Ziegler began his undergraduate studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, later transferring to the Kansas City Art Institute to complete his BFA in 1978. He earned an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia in 1982. It was in Kansas City that he met Kate Ericson, his future artistic collaborator of 18 years. Together, Ericson and Ziegler made influential site-specific installations and objects concerned with mapping trajectories, questioning history, and highlighting the specificity of places and communities—all themes that had also been important for Ziegler in his early solo works. After the tragic and premature death of his partner Kate Ericson in 1995, Mel Ziegler has continued to show works nationally and internationally. Many of his early works are compiled in his exhibition catalogue of the same name stuffed (2003), for the Secession, Vienna, Austria; additional images of recent works can be viewed at Ziegler earned a Loeb Fellowship for study at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in 1996-97.   He continues to lecture and exhibit throughout the United States, Europe and South America.  He recently completed several new projects, Downtown Mixer, in Houston Texas involving collecting breath samples from over 1600 participants in eight different high-rises, Messages from Murray in Murray, Kentucky involving the community writing messages on packing boxes from local manufacturers and most recently a project for Cheekwood Museum of Art and Botanical Garden called Smell The Flowers involving the collaboration of the US Military.  Ziegler’s current ongoing projects include a public art master plan for Lake Como Park in Fort Worth, TX and a major public art commission for the Art In Public Places Program, Cambridge, MA.  He has recently received the Big Bang award from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.  Ziegler spent ten years as a Professor of Sculpture at the University of Texas, Austin.  He is in his sixth year as a Professor of Art and Chair of the newly created Department of Art at Vanderbilt University in Nashville , TN.  He is currently on research leave for the 2012/13 school year working on a series of agricultural projects by collaborating with farmers in various rural communities across the United States.  These continuing projects have already taken place in rural Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and South Dakota.

Artist Website

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