“Can you notice it from there?” asks Groucho Marx. “I’m always that way after I eat radishes.”
We have been making fart jokes for as long as we have been making farts. Fart jokes have been with us since we have had the ability to laugh. It is timeless; which are embraced most warmly when filtered through childhood memory.
Apparently fart art also appears to go back quite sometime as well. From Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868), an unknown artist created what is one of the most remarkable, and hilarious, pieces of (f)art. This most profound demonstration of human aesthetics ever committed to parchment is called He-Gassen (屁合戦). It is literally translates into The Battle of Fart. No, you didn’t misread that last sentence. In this whole centuries-old scroll, it is just about various men and women farting. Farting at other people, farting off of horses, farting at cats, farting into bags; just farting everywhere. Those farts were so powerful that they can launch cats into the air, blow through walls, knock over buildings and generally send victims reeling. Who said that art history is boring, eh?
Perhaps the greatest piece of this farting scroll is a panorama of four old men farting into a building, and the chaos ensuing within. Click picture for more detail.
In the end, let’s not try to read too far into this. Maybe you are expecting to find some deep cultural explanation as to why this unknown artist made whole scrolls about farting. Some may argue that He-Gassen might have a political dimension; Westerners were often mocked in Japan at the time through images that blew them away by the strength of Japanese farts. So it’s possible that this scroll is a political cartoon of sorts. Like a 19th century Japanese South Park. However, I think it really just boils down to one universal truth: farts are funny!
We can pretend that we are smarter, that our senses of humour are more sophisticated than that. But let’s face it: when someone farted, you’re going to laugh. Or at least chuckle.
Check out the full He-Gassen at Waseda University.
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