Aftershock: The Ethics of Contemporary Transgressive Art
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Accused by the tabloid press of setting out to 'shock', controversial artworks are vigorously defended by art critics, who frequently downplay their disturbing emotional impact. This is the first book to subject contemporary art to a rigorous ethical exploration. It argues that, in favouring conceptual rather than emotional reactions, commentators actually fail to engage with the work they promote. Scrutinising notorious works by artists including Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Richard Billingham, Marc Quinn, Sally Mann, Marcus Harvey, Hans Bellmer, Paul McCarthy, Tierney Gearon, and Tracey Emin, 'Aftershock' insists on the importance of visceral, emotional and ‘ethical’ responses. Far from clouding our judgement, Cashell argues, shame, outrage or revulsion are the very emotions that such works set out to evoke. While also questioning the catch-all notion of ‘transgression’, this illuminating and controversial book neither jumps indiscriminately to the defence of shocking artworks nor dismisses them out of hand.
'Kieran Cashell discusses artists who use everything from soiled bed linens to blood to dead sharks in their works. Drawing on an impressive array of philosophical ideas, Cashell helps viewers tackle the messy details of art by Damien Hirst, Orlan, Marc Quinn, Tracy Emin, and more, as he provides a probing and subtle defense of the moral value of such recent "transgressive" art.'
- Cynthia A. Freeland Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy University of Houston, Texas
melodramatic, simultaneously restoring narrative equilibrium, resolving inner conflict and, most importantly, reinforcing ideology.14 Such plot resolution reinforces ideology by having the effect of homogenising any serious social (or indeed moral) conflict that would threaten to alienate audiences. Issues such as social exclusion, inequality, disempowerment and class disadvantage raised incidentally by the plot are frequently resolved through what Thomas and Callanan have critiqued as the media
referred to: the future of changed attitudes. Finally, the fact that she is pregnant makes one consider Lapper’s role as a mother (and motherhood generally) and her relationship with her child (and childcare generally). Not only do Quinn and Lapper effectively raise consciousness about the ubiquity of disability in human life – a visual polemic concerning the importance of the concepts of accessibility, tolerance and inclusion in social and political policy – but they also dramatise a deeply, but
However, I still believe that the hands that shape the face of Myra remain morally suspect for other, perhaps even less evident, reasons. Having the desensitising effect of introducing a cold forensic distance between the reallife victims and the act of creation, Harvey’s prosthetic application of paint to the canvas becomes disquieting in itself. The little prints appear as marks left by a cold, speculative intelligence, touching without touching, laying print upon print down in chill grisaille,
installation My Bed. The debris associated with the bed signifies this absence in the most precise way. Something has departed. And this constellation of indigent possessions – leavings, remains – constitutes its final testimony. Emphasising this nomadic absence, two travelling suitcases bound together with chains and padlocks, initially a separate work (Leaving Home), was eventually attracted into the orbit of My Bed.54 What makes the tent and My Bed such powerful metaphors for the self is thus
food. ‘[I get my animals] from a guy, they just get, how does he describe it? He says “the animals that fell down”. But they get all the dead ones and have to chop them up for dog food.’16 On another occasion, when asked to comment on the various and extensive animal rights protests against his work, he replied: ‘I . . . try and cover my ass before they start. I’ll talk to the RSPCA . . . I’ll talk to those kind of people and find out about it first. I will invite them down to look at the