Canned Laughter was Okón’s response to an invitation from Ciudad Juárez that asked artists to create works based on their experience in the city. Okón focuses on Ciudad Juárez as a site for many “maquiladoras”—factories— and on its role within the global context. Canned Laughter is a detailed construction of Bergson, a fictitious factory that produces canned laughter for sitcoms. For it, dozens of ex-maquiladora workers were hired both as part of the research process (maquiladoras are highly secretive and it is very hard to know what happens inside) and as actors. Canned Laughter alludes to mechanized processes and to slavery in the age of globalization as well as to the impossibility to translate and reproduce true emotions though technological means.
Yoshua Okón’s video installations are built on improvisational narratives created by the artist and his collaborators—performers willing to participate in a game of social chance that may easily spiral out of control. These works provoke viewers to consider questions of social conduct and personal behavior within the context of the authoritative nation-state. Okón places pressure on viewers to question their own attitudes towards power, ethics, and prejudice vis-á-vis class, status, and marginality.