Rina Arya and Nicholas Chare propose a comprehensive view of abject manifestations in contemporary arts. The editors brought together eleven scholars from various fields of art and culture to demonstrate the applicability and different approaches to the concept of Abjection in cultural thinking and in contemporary art practice. In the contemporary western art scene, it's certain to encounter dismembered bodies, decomposing flesh, excremental discharge and repulsive sights. It holds a notable amount of increasing presence in today's art culture.
"The curators state that they are operating with the theory of Abjection drawn from two key constituents: a psychoanalytic component related to the blurring of boundaries between self and other and a philosophical dimension originating in George Bataille's notion of base materialism which challenges mind-body dualism and established taboos. Abject art displays boundary breakdown and/or Base Materialism" [pg 3]
"Abject art and literature are not bound to a particular period or geographical location. They adapt to reflect changing times and contexts." [pg 11]
Abject art provokes a disturbing physical and psychical response. It threatens identity, undoes form, destabilises aesthetic and political normality, thus confronting the viewer as well as the artist with a significant violent breakdown.
The essays reflect upon the diverse forms and shadows of Abjection, drawn and analysed upon two different and complementary ideas - Julia Kristeva's Abjection, and George Bataille's Base Materialism, therefore, proving a developing interest in the violent and terrifying aspects of representation.
The mentioned essays have played a crucial role in shaping my process and work.
John Lechte's essays approach the idea that takes the non-object as its object. He elaborates on the presentation of the abject through the narrative of criminality, horror and violence in film and media.
Estelle Barrett's essay picks up on the quality of ambivalence - attraction/repulsion by shifting focus from reading of artworks to an experiential encounter. She elaborates on Melancholia and ambiguity through the works and process of the Australian artist Catherine bell.
Rina Arya investigates the amorphous and fragmented body in between states (Human-Animal). Kirsten cleverly gives an example of the Andres serrano's Morgue series and the success of Von Hagens's 'Body Worlds' in the sense of gazing the death. Although Von's work is anatomical and scientific it has broken the norms and brought the human corpses from morgues to display platforms like beauty contests and freak shows. Rina Arya and Kerstin Mey, pick up Kristeva's attention toward the 'corpse - the object of abjection ' as the vital expression. It highlights the inner dispute that threatens the stability of the physical boundaries and the sense of self on seeing corpses and fragmented bodies. This attitude towards the unbounded matter of the dead body is likely to the fundamental tension lying at the core of Freud's dynamic definition of psychic and creative activities which are subjected to compulsive friction that opposes yet harmonises the death and the pleasure drives in the psyche. Hence Abjection is a liminal space in which life and death encounter an uncanny embrace. It floats between the opposite but complimenting poles of aesthetics and disease, jouissance and disgust. An extremely simplified example can be a joy or relief on the death of a villain in a film. The abject floats in an indefinite zone between subject and object, where rules are ineffective and meanings are distorted. Thus, Abjection troubles the boundaries of being sublime and transgressed but does not abandon them.
Abject Visions offers an analytical introduction to Abjection and more significantly its applications presented as a complicated process and an essential tool to investigate contemporary culture.