As a fine artist turned scholar, I have always been fascinated by bodies, particularly non-normative bodies.  Normal is a difficult term that varies from a statistical measure of 68%, to an explosively loaded social term that is constructed in opposition to deviance, aberration, and failure. My interest in bodies that refuse the norm has lead my research into the psychoanalytic realm of the abject and the evolutionary psychology of disgust.  This blog is devoted to an investigation into visual imagery that is disgusting, but also alluring.  This push/pull dynamic was something I first discovered when making my own works, where I sought to pull the viewer in through bright colors or nudity, but shocked on closer observation with bodies torn open.  This dynamic is something that Julia Kristeva describes in her work  Powers of Horror as the fascinated victimhood of the abject. The abject is the radically excluded that haunts from the periphery.  The exclusion is part of the process of ego-formation and necessary for healthy subjectivity.  However, nothing in psychoanalysis is ever truly gone, so the abjected returns, threatening the subject.  As the returned was once a part of the individual or close to the individual, when the abject returns it is both horrific and pleasurable.  Abjection is described as the ultimate uncanny as it is both wholly familiar and made foreign. These abstract and difficult concepts can best be understood through art.  While Kristeva argues that literature is the home of the abject because of languages ability to enact word play, I argue that the abject is best understood through art. Because of mirror neurons, when we look at art we have an embodied response, a type of kinesthetic empathy.  This means that when we engage in art which is abject, we have an embodied abject response which includes both disgust and attraction.  Disgust is an important component of the abject, however, if disgust is the only emotional experience the viewer feels, than the work is not abject.  It is simply disgusting and excluded, there is no return.  Art, even when it depicts something disgusting, often does so in an aestheticized manner which ensures some sort of appeal, whether it be because of the materiality of the work, the style, or even the distance that the picture as screen provides.  I think that this strengthens the prevalence of the abject in images and makes the extended and indepth study of images with an abject analysis necessary both for understanding these complicated and often misunderstood works, but also as a way to better understand the theoretical concept of abjection and the abject.  This blog will chronicle my continued engagement with these images and ideas.


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