By Christopher Frost
Children engage in all sorts of funny business, some- times consciously, other times unawares. Case in point, my own progeny. These photos I took of some
of them illustrate neo-Kantian philosopher Susanne Langer’s
argument from her 1942 book Philosophy in a New Key: A
Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art that “
presentational language” depends on “the wealth of poverty of transient imagery … the sudden arrest of fantasy by pure fact ...
[and] the suspense [of the literal].” In other words, when incongruous, ironic, or unexpected elements enter the perceptual field, when a context essential to meaning shifts, or
when something so familiar as to be unnoticed becomes the
focus, the result may be humorous or unusual.
Christopher Frost (former Western regional
representative on the national level and former
San Diego State University chapter president) has
published photographs in quarterly editions of Texas
Books in Review, in his scholarly book, Moral Cruelty:
Ameaning and the Justification of Harm (University
Press of America, 2004), on various humanitarian
websites, and for campus purposes and campus art exhibitions. Frost is
the academic dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the Long Island
campus of St. Joseph’s College of New York. A prolific author whose
academic work also includes Simone Weil: On Politics, Religion and Society
(Sage Publications, 1998), he earned degrees from Baylor University
(B.A. in the psychology of religion) and Boston University (M.A. in the
psychology of religion and Ph.D. in psychology and interdisciplinary
studies). Email him at email@example.com.
Roots and Routes
of Funny Business
My youngest daughter,
Téa Frost, age 5, hugs
friends in Romania in
fall 2004 atop a fallen
statue of Vladimir Lenin.
Téa was born in that
country and her pals
live there but of course
the young comrades
don’t yet understand
communism, the Cold
War and how the
toppling of the Soviet
regime proved anything
but child’s play.
Funny business connotes monkey business, as
in a lack of seriousness or downright silliness.
My granddaughter, Shaela Frost, age 16 months,
gravitates toward her furry friend in spring 1998,
intuiting part of its whimsical appeal. I’d like to
think she’s grooming her new chum!
Fifteen-year-old Shaela’s sense of mischievousness
grows by inserting herself into Martin Kippenberger’s
Martin, into the Corner, You Should Be Ashamed of
Yourself (1992, cast aluminum, clothing, and iron
plate) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City
in summer 2012. Sculptural art literally turns a corner,
transforming into performance art, as she naughtily
breaks the rule of just looking.