analyse your own aesthetic response

BCA 8000

 

About Assignment 2: tips to get you started

This assignment is about beginning to apply your ability to analyse your own aesthetic response to an event of your choice. I highly recommend you choose to attend something that might be out of your immediate arts discipline area; if you are a visual artist, then attend a music concert; if you are a theatre artist, then attend an art exhibition, etc. This will help you read the event as a novice to approximate how non-arts people might take in an arts event.

Remember, the event begins way before you walk through the doors to attend. The event really begins when you make our choice to attend an event, so you need to keep some journal notes on why you chose the event and what was it that stirred your interest because this is what has drawn you to it in the first place. This is all evidence about the event that you need to keep on hand and add to as you get ready for the event; what you choose to wear, how you scaffold the event with a meal or meeting friends will also add (or subtract) from your read of the event, so pay close attention to the lead up to and the moving away from the event your attend as it all adds to your aesthetic intake of the experience.

You may want to think about Dantos discussion about how we frame art into various artworlds. You may wish to consider this as part of your attending to an event as part of your aesthetic response in assignment 2. The location of the art/event inside a constructed artworld may elevate or ignore certain art objects  what are the gatekeeping systems imbedded in your event? How does the event frame the artworld and how/what is the aesthetic experience of this for you  either before or after you acknowledge the "artworld" you find yourself in?

Unlike your first assignment which was really about surveying what other artists and theorists suggest about the aesthetics of your chosen discipline, Assignment 2 puts you squarely in the middle of the experience and asks you to articulate the varying emotions and reasons you wrestle with whilst attending the arts event. You should write in first person, but most importantly, you need to converse with the various aspects of any of the readings from this course. In fact, it might serve you well to also read ahead into module 5 in regard to ethics, reason and feeling in our aesthetic understandings. You may find some very helpful advice in these readings as well as the material below on theabject  we are ALSO aesthetically affected by things that are arresting and sometimes abhorrent, not just by things that might be considered beautiful.

Assignment 2 is an analysis assignment and not just a retelling of your arts experience  you MUST engage fully with as many aspects of the readings as possible in order to help you broaden your understanding of how an arts event ushers or hinders aesthetic experience. A critical evaluation is what this paper is ultimately aiming for, so make sure you are more than aware of the context of how the art is prepared and presented for public consumption.

 

 

Assignment 2

Assignment 2: Aesthetic response

See information about this assignment in Module 4 in the study materials.

Length: 2000 words maximum

Students are to attend an arts event of their choice in their particular discipline area (see study schedule). Your supervisor can help you discern what might be the most advantageous event for you to attend, as this assignment will interrogate the aesthetic dimension of the entire experience of the event: from travelling to the event, entering the event space, the event itself, and leaving the event. You should gather as much evidence about the actual event as you can: tickets, programs, reviews, adverts, word of mouth, etc.

Using theories and ideas from lectures/modules, you will need to construct a response to the event that explores aspects of the context of the event, such as:

·         What is art in this context? For whose gaze?

·         What are my reactions and reads of the event? Why?

·         Meaning, how is it all constructed  in this context?

·         Form, style, expression, ethics, censorship, how are these applied in this context?

·         What do other theorists and practitioners say about this?

You should make connections to your previous paper on the Aesthetic review and draw further conclusions about the aesthetic field in your discipline in this response.

 

 

CRITERIA

1-             Constructs a response that reveals the students ability to analyse the constructed arts event and illuminates new discoveries about the aesthetic in arts events 40%

2-             Presents a cohesive, structured, and well evidenced response that clearly articulates students position using theories from course 40%

3-             Referencing, punctuation, syntax 20%

 

 

Module 4 – The abject

  PDF version 

previous up next 

Module overview

Much discussion about aesthetics over the years has chiefly revolved around whether something is beautiful, and identifying what the properties of beauty are for the reader. But we forget that very strong aesthetic experiences can be had through reading what might be termed as ugly. The ugly or abject can also stir deep reactions in the artists and readers alike, and they will be discussed in detail in this module in order to prepare you for module 5 which deals specifically with making the case of using cognition and emotion in how we make and read art works. There is room at the table for the abject: does the abject also have its own kind of codes for beauty and disrupt form, style, context? I would say that there is, and you need to be open-minded in thinking this all through.

This module is written by Dr David Akenson who is a lecturer in Art Theory in the School of Creative Arts at USQ. He scaffolds his discussions around the work of Julia Kristeva and her seminal thinking about the abject and its relation to aesthetics.

Module 4 is dedicated to the abject: something that stands along from the subject (I) and the object (that): the abject exists where there is a theoretical breakdown between object and subject. For Kristeva, the abject is very present in the body; it cannot hide its leakage (urine, faeces, blood, pus, tears, wax, hairloss, skin dust, etc.)  all of which humans disavow in order to maintain a wholeness of self. These things that are expelled from the body confront us because they represent how abject the body is. The corpse is a dead object, no longer subject, but subject nonetheless to decay and destruction (see page 26 Study Book). How do we approach a language for these things in our lives? Better to hide them and exclude them from each other  but this is Kristevas point: what is abject is the jettisoned object, the radically excluded object that draws me toward the place where mean collapses (Kristeva in Akenson, p. 26)  this is void, the blank, the place with no place. This is the meaningless stain of the Real (Lacan); not reality, but the dissolution  and the avoidance of the Real is how we maintain our (the subjects) sense of self.

On a social scale, the body politic can also be abject as it is also subject to disturbance of its identity and order: death camps, Kony, genocide, torture, all breakdown the fabric of the society that might otherwise shun such disruptions to order. HIV and AIDS is certainly another abject application of disruption that was often linked to multiple-sex partners, homosexuality, and drug use  all widely professed to be anti-social and anti-Godfearing behaviour that may threaten order. Where the boundaries are beginning to breakdown is where fear and terror reside: cancer corrupting healthy cells, swearing on the rise in society, inter-racial marriages, the Gaza Strip.

Kristeva associates the abject with jouissance (enjoyment tinged with pain, kindness with cruelty)  the experience of arts is such an association, because the pleasure associated with experiencing it is about seduction (not just desire). See the link to the ABC Radio interview with Elizabeth Grosz below. The pleasure of pain and pain in pleasure theme is also outlined in Artauds theatre practice  not that there was too much of this, because digital/multimedia film-making had not yet been invented when he was writing.

Antonin Artaud was a great theatrical theorist and proponent of the Theatre of Cruelty  not literally in regard to torture or bullying  but rather, a theatre (like a laboratory) where the festering boils of society could be lanced, and laid bare. His writings in The Theatre and its double (1938) illuminate his ideas about the theatre being able to provide a locus for the violent and physical shattering of false reality/ies. He was a proponent against realism and he wanted to return theatre to a place without language, almost a spiritual place  the void, the abyss. There are no set readings for module 4 , but for the essay that has been penned by Dr David Akenson, an art theorist from the School of Creative Arts here at USQ.

Please read this thoroughly and avail yourself of the attachments for this week: you can see there is a powerpoint regarding Kristeva and the Abject ... but WARNING , some of you may find these images disturbing, so please attend to them in the spirit of the module: not all aesthetic experiences are beautiful nor pleasant.

Objectives

On successful completion of this course students should be able to:

1.     articulate and express how aesthetic philosophies/theories can analyse the art-making process

2.     analyse and evaluate various theories to reveal artistic discipline-specific and cross-disciplinary aesthetic contrasts and comparisons

3.     apply aesthetic theories and reflect upon their use in practice of art-making.

 

 

About Assignment 2: tips to get you started

This assignment is about beginning to apply your ability to analyse your own aesthetic response to an event of your choice. I highly recommend you choose to attend something that might be out of your immediate arts discipline area; if you are a visual artist, then attend a music concert; if you are a theatre artist, then attend an art exhibition, etc. This will help you read the event as a novice to approximate how non-arts people might take in an arts event.

Remember, the event begins way before you walk through the doors to attend. The event really begins when you make our choice to attend an event, so you need to keep some journal notes on why you chose the event and what was it that stirred your interest because this is what has drawn you to it in the first place. This is all evidence about the event that you need to keep on hand and add to as you get ready for the event; what you choose to wear, how you scaffold the event with a meal or meeting friends will also add (or subtract) from your read of the event, so pay close attention to the lead up to and the moving away from the event your attend as it all adds to your aesthetic intake of the experience.

You may want to think about Dantos discussion about how we frame art into various artworlds. You may wish to consider this as part of your attending to an event as part of your aesthetic response in assignment 2. The location of the art/event inside a constructed artworld may elevate or ignore certain art objects  what are the gatekeeping systems imbedded in your event? How does the event frame the artworld and how/what is the aesthetic experience of this for you  either before or after you acknowledge the "artworld" you find yourself in?

Unlike your first assignment which was really about surveying what other artists and theorists suggest about the aesthetics of your chosen discipline, Assignment 2 puts you squarely in the middle of the experience and asks you to articulate the varying emotions and reasons you wrestle with whilst attending the arts event. You should write in first person, but most importantly, you need to converse with the various aspects of any of the readings from this course. In fact, it might serve you well to also read ahead into module 5 in regard to ethics, reason and feeling in our aesthetic understandings. You may find some very helpful advice in these readings as well as the material below on theabject  we are ALSO aesthetically affected by things that are arresting and sometimes abhorrent, not just by things that might be considered beautiful.

Assignment 2 is an analysis assignment and not just a retelling of your arts experience  you MUST engage fully with as many aspects of the readings as possible in order to help you broaden your understanding of how an arts event ushers or hinders aesthetic experience. A critical evaluation is what this paper is ultimately aiming for, so make sure you are more than aware of the context of how the art is prepared and presented for public consumption.

4.1 Language and the subject: some contextual points of reference

Please go ahead now and read the material in this module; pay particular attention to section 4.4 (Kristevas abject) as her ideas are placed in a nutshell there: abject occurs somewhere at the edge of the disappearance of subject and object, a place where there is no language/discourse, and only artworks can attempt to reveal the impact of the abject upon us. The body is the locus of most of Kristevas thinking about the abject because is often both subject and object, but it disavows the abject (all the leaking things that a body does that we attempt to hide and bury), they are what make us fear the abject as something that can completely undo us. Undo the order of the body, the lies we tell ourselves (that we are not dying) and oppose the views of ourselves as subject and object. Really enjoy this  comb through the reading as much as you can  there is some chewy ideas to think about that you need to envisage in your own practice or the practice of others.

Could it be that the abject can beget great beauty? If DaVinci had not have dug up cadavers and experimented with flesh, blood, veins, muscle, bone, foetus, etc., we would not have the body of art work that he also completed. If the glands of animals (the ones next to their anus) werent harvested, we would not have the array of perfume formulas available to consuming ... your shampoo may have been tested on animals, your sweat-pants made in a sweat-shop, etc. Abject.

Language is not only the domain of literature, philosophy and theory, but rather the medium of our social and cultural world. It is also the medium of the various arts, often referred to as the symbolic, or symbolic Other that structures the cultural world. Some go so far as to say there is only language  nothing in excess of the meaning structures of our social and cultural world. If this position is taken we understand all creative effort to be subsumed by language or meaning structures. Immanuel Kant, in many ways the modern father of this type of thinking argued that we are finite subjects limited to the framework of our subjective position, beyond which is a real world of things in themselves of which we know nothing (Kant, 1999, p. 381). We experience the phenomenal world, but it is structured by what he called the categories of the understandingor concepts (Kant, p. 206). The thing in itself or objective real world, in opposition to subjective appearances, can only be the source of speculation for the human subject limited to experience according to Kant. However, by entertaining the idea of a thing in itself or objective world external to the subject, Kant maintained an external space for the real object over and above our limited subjective position. As we will see, for Kristeva the thing is more a thing in self, or part of the human subject, rather than a thing in itself or external.

The German Idealist GWF Hegel has been interpreted as opposing such a view by making the claim that all of life is language, or at least reason or concepts. There is no real objective world in itself, since even this is a concept or product of reason and its process of self realisation. Hegel famously said the rational is the real and the real is the rational. The real object is not external to the reasoning power of the human subject, nor does it pose a problem for the self assurance of the subject as understood by Hegel since all reality is submitted to the conceptual system Hegel constructs.

More recently semiotics and structuralist theories from Continental theory, and theories of the symbolic from an analytic position, have made not too dissimilar claims. (Continental and Analytic are too convenient terms for two different approaches to philosophy and theory that begin in the aftermath of G.W.F. Hegels response to Kant). Suzanne Langer from an Analytic position for instance  discusses the way the discursive symbolic involves arranging and rearranging meaning through differing contexts, including aesthetic contexts. Art makes meaning in relation to other art meaning and the feeling we derive from art is associated with concepts.

Another position on the linguistic  one that had a profound influence on Kristeva  is taken from the Continental side of the divide. The early structuralist period of the French psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan is the most important in this context. Drawing on structuralist ideas that largely originate in the sign theory of the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Lacan argued that the human subject is born into a language or symbolic system of meaning that precedes them. They become subjects by beingsubject to the castrating effects of the signifier. In other words, we are spoken by language rather than speakers of it. Lacan made the claim that even the unconsciousbehaves or is structured like a language (Lacan, 2001, p. 65). The last traces of nature residing in Freudian psychoanalysis are thus expunged. According to structuralist arguments we do not so much speak as become spoken; our being belongs to the medium of language, is mediated by language. In this sense both Langer and Lacan find some agreement.

4.1.1 Language and the real

Lacans later theory however, attempts to rethink the real outside or additional to language. He develops Kants concept of the thing in itself through his idea of the Real, or that which is in excess of language. The Real flesh of the world as Merleau-Ponty would say, returns from its suppression by the human subjects constructed meaningful world. The subject might be subject to language, but there is a real that resists this absorption. Psychosis, Lacan argued, is the absence of a linguistic or symbolic structure to support the body of the subject. The Real for Lacan is not reality (meaning systems) but its opposite, the absence of logic and meaning  the other side of language. The Real is not a pleasant place. It is horrifying! The last thing the human being wants is the Real as Lacan understood it. Since the Real is the absence of language and meaningful structures, we cannot reside in it and remain human subjects, we can only cautiously approach the real. The human subject, if it is to remain a subject and not be reduced to an mere object, must keep it unreal by avoiding at all costs, the intrusion of the real on their symbolic or linguistic world.

4.2 Kristevas desire and language

The Bulgarian born French philosopher Julia Kristeva would no doubt agree. Kristevas early writing on poetics understood the language of poetry as a way of producingrevolutionary effects within the otherwise rational form of communication. She agrees with Lacan that the subject is subject to language, but also, that language as an expression of desire, is an undecidable process between sense and nonsense (Oliver, p. Xviii). Poetic effects in language expression disturb meaning systems and create a threat to the stability of the human construct of ego as it is expressed through the use of conventional language as a medium that structures our socio-symbolic and psycho-symbolic worlds. As Kelly Oliver put it poetic language puts the speaking subject in crisis [by rendering] syntax indeterminate, thus blending Saussures linguistics with Lacans subjectification via language acquisition (2002, p. xx).

However, the acquisition of language and thus subjectivity is at the expense of what must be rejected by the self in order to be. In the 1980s Kristevas turns to the question of horror, in particular, what she refers to as the abject  what must be rejected  where grammatical language and the speaking subject is not simply disturbed by the indeterminate effects of poetics, but rather overtly threatened by the excess of the material object over the formal coherence of the human subject structured by language. Having attended the seminars of Lacan in the early 1970s and read literary figures such as  Georges Bataille (the philosopher of shit as the Surrealist Andre Breton dismissively called him) and Antonin Artaud (the Surrealist whose theory of a theatre of cruelty confronted the audience with sensory, even primal experience in order to disturb linguistic expectation and convention), Kristeva was very much interested in the division between the body and world, body and language, the inside and outside, form and formlessness, and the relationship between the maternal body and that of the developing infant, and that infants eventual rejection of the maternal body and submission to the symbolic Law. Kristeva makes the point that what is abject [is] the jettisoned object [the] radically excluded [object] that draws me toward the place where meaning collapses (Kristeva, 1982, p. 2).

4.3 Kristevas abject

Kristeva follows Lacan insofar as she maintains the point that the subject is formed through language, but she is arguably more interested in the breakdown or threat to such a subject than Lacan. For Kristeva, the body as real is under threat from within and without. As Kelly Oliver puts it she [Kristeva] is interested both in how the subject is constituted through language acquisition and in how the subject is demolished with the psychotic breakdown of language (Oliver, 2002, p. Xvi). The abject, as formless other, is just as much the subjects own self as broken down through a breakdown in the symbolic. As Kristeva puts it an unshakable adherence to Prohibition and Law (symbolic) is necessary if that perverse interspace of abjection is to be hemmed in and thrust aside(Kristeva, 1982 p. 16). In other words the abjection of formless other to the ego construct must be suppressed if the symbolic Law that maintains our distance from the thing is be held in tact. abjection appears in exclusion or taboo (Kristeva, p. 17). So what is this abiding interest in abjection, and what might constitute horror for Kristeva? In her 1980 publication The powers of horror Kristeva introduces the concept of the abject or base, formless material that the human subject must disavow in order to maintain its formal wholeness and sense of self. Kristeva associates the abject with human reaction to offensive material such as horror, vomit, blood, pus etc. This abject state is a response to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object, between self and other, inside and outside. The primary cause of such a reaction is the dead body or corpse. The presence of the corpse, an dead object, is traumatic because it reminds us of our own materiality and mortality, the fact that we are at base, just objects subject to decay and destruction.

Other experiences can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, blood, excrement, sewage, vomit, even certain crustacea (contra Kant who curiously added them to his examples of beauty) and strange creatures such as the formless, blind, disgusting things that inhabit the bottom of the ocean. Even botanical examples are readily found, plants such as the so-called corpse flower of Sumatra is the best example; a flower that smells of shit and rotting human flesh. These might be called examples of Kristevasabject.

Kristevas understanding of the abject provides a helpful term to contrast with Lacans object of desire or the objet petit a. Whereas the objet petit a allows a subject to coordinate his or her desires, by pursuing the little piece of the real, thus allowing the (Lacanian) symbolic order of meaning and intersubjective community to persist, the abject is radically excluded, and, as Kristeva explains, draws me toward the place where meaning collapses; the place with no place, the blank, meaningless stain of the real. The abject is neither object nor subject; it is situated, rather, at a place before we entered into the symbolic order, the order that has a place waiting for us; a place first filled by our image, then our name, then our social and cultural identity formation. Our development as infants and our gradual separation from the maternal body as object brings about our development as human subjects that find their place in the symbolic world of language, or what Lacan called the law or the big Other.

As Kristeva puts it, Abjection preserves what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship, in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be. The abject marks what Kristeva terms a primal repression one that precedes the establishment of the subjects relation to its objects of desire and of representation, before even the establishment of the opposition, conscious/unconscious theorised by Freud. The abject Other to the formation of the subject is what is repressed, and it is immemorial because it has always been there where we (as subjects) are not, the place of the formless, pre-objectal Real. The Real, as Lacan argued, isnot reality but rather its dissolution, and Kristeva wants to point out that the avoidance, even expulsion of the pre-objectal abject is needed to maintain the subjects sense of self.

The relationship between object, subject and abject is a ternary bond or dependence formation. In this context Kristeva refers to the moment in our psychosexual development when we (necessarily) established a border or separation between subject and object, subject and nature, human and animal, between culture and that which preceded it, or what is outside it  a brutal Hobbesian nature.

The outside must remain outside  the body must hold its form by distinguishing this form from the formless  from waste, vomit, pus, blood and shit that might threaten its formation. The reason the mere mention of these words, let alone seeing them in the flesh, is cause for revulsion and horror, is because they represent our own abject body, or it potential state.

Kristeva refers to the primitive effort to separate ourselves from the animal: by way of abjection, primitive societies have marked out a precise area of their culture in order to remove it from the threatening world of animals or animalism, which were imagined as representatives of sex and murder.

On the level of our individual psychosexual development, the abject marks the moment when we separate ourselves from the mother, when we began to recognize a boundary between me and other, between me and (m)other. According to Kristeva, a newborn child must enter the social symbolic order through recognising itself as separate from the mother and the maternal body. This is a challenging transition because the child has been attached to the mothers body through the umbilical cord and dependent on the placenta for sustenance, and later the breast. In order to recognise itself as an individual subject, the child must separate both literally and metaphorically from the mother. InApproaching abjection Kristeva argues The abjection of self would be the culminating form of that experience of the subject which it is revealed that all its objects are based merely on the inaugural loss that laid the foundations of its own being; that is, the loss of the mother. The childs formation as a human subject depends on a form of rejection of the maternal body  blood, placenta, umbilical cord etc.; as the first of a history of rejections aimed at stabilising the self.

These bodily parts associated with the period of maternal gestation, to Kristeva, become abject or revolting as a result of the process of rejection and the memorial they erect to the dependent pre-objectal self. As such, these same formless materials, and many others besides, must be rejected, or abjected  expelled from the body. Shit, vomit, blood, pus and many other materials become disgusting to the developing subjectivity lest our symbolic world, organised through meaning structures, comes undone and we become reduce to the same abject state.

The abject thus at once represents the threat that meaning, as part of the symbolic social order of the Law, is breaking down and constitutes our reaction to such a breakdown: a reestablishment of our primal repression (Kristeva, 1982, p. 10, 243). The symbolic Law, is threatened by the semiotic; which for Kristeva, is not meaning so much as the organisation of the drives and is thus a threat to the Law. The abject, has, analogously, to do with what disturbs identity, system, order [meaning]. What does not respect borders, positions, rules, and therefore, can also include crimes like Auschwitz, Darfur, Rwanda. Such crimes are abject precisely because they draw attention to the fragility of the law or big Other/symbolic order of which Lacan spoke (Kristeva, p.4).

More specifically, Kristeva associates the abject with the eruption of the Real into our everyday, ordered lives. In particular, she associates such a response with our rejection of deaths insistent formless materiality and the threat of subjective dissolution. Our reaction to such abject material alters what is essentially a pre-lingual response. Kristeva therefore is quite careful to differentiate knowledge of death or the meaning of death (both of which can exist within the symbolic order) from the traumatic experience of being actually confronted with the sort of formless materiality that traumatically shows you your own death. We use cosmetics on the dead body in an open casket, not to honour the dead but to preserve the living, to distance us from our body.

The corpse especially exemplifies Kristevas concept of abjection since it literalizes the breakdown of the distinction between subject and object that is crucial for the establishment of identity and for our entrance into the symbolic order  our coming into being as subjects. The dead body is body without self  body as object! What we are confronted with when we experience the trauma of seeing a human corpse (particularly the corpse of a friend or family member) is our own eventual death made palpably real. As Kristeva puts it, The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. It is death infecting life.

Kristeva also associates the abject with jouissance: One does not know it, one does not desire it, one enjoys it (Kristeva, p. 9). Enjoyment or jouissance is more than fun, it is pleasure tinged with pain, kindness with cruelty. This statement appears paradoxical, but what Kristeva means by such statements is that we are, despite everything, continually and repetitively drawn to the abject (much as we are repeatedly drawn to trauma in Freuds understanding of repetitive compulsion. Like the sublime in Kant, the experience the abject in literature, theatre and visual art carries with it a certain pleasure but one that is quite different from the dynamics of desire. Kristeva associates this aesthetic experience of the abject, rather, with an almost Aristotelian poetic catharsis: an impure process that protects from the abject only by dint of being immersed in it(Kristeva, p. 26).

4.4 Kristeva and the politics of fear

We experience it at a remove, symbolically through the various arts. But the negative power of the abject is what is most evident in our culture and our social lives. It is this that politics, cultural works and social situations most often suppresses, reflects or exploits. The environmental movement, perhaps unconsciously, uses the threat of abjection to provoke a response to catastrophic issues such as pollution, climate change, nuclear proliferation, and ultimately, the extinction of species. The Exxon disaster and what is euphemistically referred to as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is disgusting insofar as it invokes death and produces a substance that has no place except in a state of transformation as petroleum or plastic and the like. Radioactive waste similarly invokes the threat of total annihilation. Abject images of starving children work on our fragile selves more than images of starving adults. Politically, anarchy is perhaps the most abject insofar as it abjures the fundamental organisation or formalisation of power in the state and other institutions.

Violence against others is a manifestation of a threat to the ego and the lack of recognition from the other (made Other through the assumed threat). Racism is a response to the challenge of difference from the Other. Terrorism is not so much a literal threat but operates symbolically on the security of the symbolic order that controls extremes. In culture, countless movies relying on our fear of the outside and the unknown Other drawing on our complex relation to fear and horror. From early classics such as They came from outer space, to The blob, Ants, Godzilla; through to the Ridley Scott classic Aliens, and more recent movies such as Paranormal activity. The perennial splatter and zombie movie also attest to our enduring fascination with the abject.

4.5 Kristeva and culture

According to Kristeva, some modern literature also explores these themes (Dostoevsky, Proust, Artaud, Céline, Kafka, etc.); exploring the place of the abject where boundaries begin to breakdown, where we are confronted with an archaic space before such linguistic binaries as self/other or subject/object arose to structure our bodies through culture and demarcate a space for our independence. Hermann Nitsch and the Orgien-MysterienTheatre is another example of the reception and influence of Kristeva on the arts. The abject performances of Nitsch where blood is the medium of choice, confront the audience with their own inside, partially reducing the subject into an object. The abject performances of punk rock and the guttural groans of death metal bands and some forms of sound art are further examples. A band has formed in recent years called Abject, a punk rock band with metal aggression mixed with politics. The punk band represents, not so much the abjection of the specific subject, or not directly, but rather the abjection of the social as such, the threat from the excluded Other: anarchy in the UK as the Sex Pistols called it.

In visual art, the abject has been embraced with perhaps the most enthusiasm, even to the extent of being referred to as a movement by the Whitney museum. Mike Kelly, Paul McCarthy, Robert Gober, Helen Chadwick, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Louise Bourgeois, Mike Parr and Cindy Sherman to name but a very small example, have embraced or otherwise been associated with Kristevas theory of the abject. Mike Kelly presents the abject as infantile gestures that shock the public with their obscenity. Robert Gober presents the subject in fragments, broken and horizontal. Helen Chadwick, like Gober, has shown fragmented bodies but also organs of the body, liver, kidney spleen, heart and brain. She also draws attention to the boundary between inside and outside through sometimes graphically presenting the vaginal orifice. Jake and Dinos Chapman also aim to shock the audience by forcing them to confront social taboos, the inhuman and the obscene that the social order aims to suppress. Louise Bourgeois explores female desire, something that often presents a threat to the masculine identity, and by extension, the rational structure upon which the logic of capital depends, by converting all desire into the desire to consume. Cindy Sherman, perhaps more than any of the previous examples, has explored the abject and formless and the border between the inside and the outside. She uses her own body in many instances to explore the social roles we perform. At her most abject, her images threaten the very foundation of subjectivity.

Conclusion

Kristevas ternary bond of subject, object and abject, while having roots deep in philosophical and psychoanalytic literature, continues to have its effects on culture today. It is still arguably one of the most compelling explanations for our fragile sense of self and our response to this threat through political and other forms of violence, and works of creative art in all its many forms.

References

Hegel, GWF 2001, Philosophy of right, trans. SW Dyde, Kitchener, Otario (Ebrary electronic books).

Kant, I 1999, Critique of pure reason, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Kristeva, J 1982, Powers of horror: an essay on abjection, Columbia University Press, New York.

Lacan J 2001, Ecrits: a selection, Routledge, London.

Oliver, K 2002, The portable Kristeva, Columbia University Press, New York.

 

 

    • Posted: 4 years ago
    analyse your own aesthetic response A+ Tutorial use as Guide

    Purchase the answer to view it

    blurred-text
    Save time and money!
    Our teachers already did such homework, use it as a reference!