Humour, art and civility

“At night, noise is a nuisance.”

That, in plain English, is what in French becomes an opportunity for a phonetically humorous turn of phrase: La nuit, le bruit nuit !

That is what the feature image shows, written with the half-moon in place of the U of “nuit” providing graphic interest, and posted in the university district close to where I reside.

Given the posting is located at a street intersection bearing a coffee house and three taverns, adjoining apartment buildings, I always took it to be a gentle reminder of civil behavior aimed at the late-night drinking crowd.


Shhh say says the tree
Shhh say says the tree

In my corner of the street, the next-door building manager, probably inspired by a recent event of late night feasting in the neighborhood, installed a wordless version of the official posted message shown in the feature image.

The main difference lies not only in the nature of the installation itself but also on the use of a tree as its support, making it appear as if it were sign-talking to the viewer from a respectable distance and height.

Here, compared to the humour introduced in the language of the official message, we have a wordless work of art using the imposing yet friendly presence of a tree to make its point, because a point was indeed intended as I found out by discussing the matter with its creator.

End words

I wish to share, with its author’s permission, the following appreciation of my photograph of the wordless installation.

“Your … photographic subject … expresses a civilized admonition to tone it down (and listen), and appropriately, the use of a living tree as a silent watchful natural presence communicates an even more profound dimension to this statement.”

My point here is that if humour and art can both promote urban civility, the humorous official sign wording in the feature image implies an “external” enforcing authority, while in the image showing the tree-installed human face signing “shhhh” I read a call to one’s ”profound” moral authority to act in civil manner.




Credit all photos to Maurice Amiel

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