Rob & Sincere Irony at the DeCordova

10 November 2013

The boy at the deCordova front desk asks us what we are making.

We say that our friend Rob The Philosopher has sent us an assignment and we need to find out about Sincere Irony.

(The assignment is in a blue folder that reads, Pleasant Articles, This Stationery is Do Comfortable Life)

Our little artist house, 8 feet by 12 feet, is situated right in front of the deCordova Museum, and on this Sunday afternoon of a long weekend, everyone who peeks in wants to talk to us about the art we are supposed to be making.

In our artist house, built for the purpose of making art, we are unable to make art because of the influx of visitors.

Our first irony of the day.

The first child that comes in tells us that she has brought her art-bag to work with us and we unintentionally become babysitters.

"I'm making cinnamon rolls." She tells us.

Katrina cuts a cinnamon roll out of cardboard. Jonah glues it into 3-D spirals. Jessica makes one out of crumpled brown paper, with an Elmer's glue icing.

2 children who are half-Colombian, 2 children who are half-German and half-Argentinian and 2 children who are half-Chinese come in at intervals and stand around, too shy to ask questions.

So we are relieved when four adults stop in and we can ask them about the Nature of Irony.

Moustaches. They say. We live in Somerville. It's full of Ironic Moustaches.

"They might not think it's ironic." Says the man with the round glasses and the kind face.

"But I do." Says the woman with the pink t-shirt. (Her shirt has a picture of an elephant with tiny wings and a ball and chain shackled to its ankle. Is that ironic? An elephant sprouting wings that cannot hold his weight and even if they could, he's still weighed down?)

We talk about if irony brings people together--if recognizing an unintentional irony is a way of connecting, of creating an in-group, (examples given of office culture). But, we think, it comes at the expense of the mustachio, it's connective but exclusive.

The little girl returns to roll snakes of playdough into cinnamon buns.

"There's something ironic in that," says the quiet woman with the dark bob, who hasn't said anything yet.

"She wants to make cinnamon buns," Jonah says, "because they're gooey and delicious... all kinds of qualities that won't be in the finished product."

The lunch lady upstairs mentions the smell, "isn't that the best part?"

Jessica starts making a berry pie out of that crumpled brown paper and red napkins.

We go into the museum to use the bathroom and lock ourselves out of the little house. The security guard, to our delight, has the most moustachio of moustaches. It twirls (without wax he tells us), and we ask him his thoughts on Sincere Irony.

Sincerely and sweetly, he tells us that his moustache is not ironic. That it is a fashion statement you can grow. He says that sincerity and irony are two opposite sides of a spectrum. He says that the irony is only in the eyes of the beholder.

We nod as if that's enough.

But it's not enough. We haven't even come close to understanding irony, much less how it can be used sincerely. But we've looked for it harder than we have on any other day. And though we mislabel most things as ironic, all we can do is ask the philosopher what happens after page two.