Art and Obscenity (Art and... Series)

Art and Obscenity (Art and... Series)

Kerstin Mey

Language: English

Pages: 168

ISBN: 1845112350

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Explicit material is more widely available in the internet age than ever before, yet the concept of ""obscenity"" remains as difficult to pin down as it is to approach without bias: notions of what is ""obscene"" shift with societies' shifting mores, and our responses to explicit or disturbing material can be highly subjective. In this intelligent and sensitive book, Kerstin Mey grapples with the work of twentieth century artists practising at the edges of acceptability, from Hans Bellmer through to Nobuyoshi Araki, from Robert Mapplethorpe to Annie Sprinkle, and from Hermann Nitsch to Paul McCarthy. Mey refuses sweeping statements and ""kneejerk"" responses, arguing with dexterity that some works, regardless of their ""high art"" context, remain deeply problematic, while others are both groundbreaking and liberating.

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wrapped each other in paper and then unwrapped again. They threw paint, dead chicken, fish and sausages at each other: carn(iv)al literally, an orgy of 3. Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy (1964). the flesh, a sensuous explosion. The objects and materials employed, removed from their common context of use and consumption per se, mark a conscious transgression of ‘good taste’ and artfulness. Schneemann sought to thematise and valorise embodied 22 Art and Obscenity experience and sexuality,

complexes, takes on its particular significance. Expounding abjection’s ambiguous position, Kristeva discusses its close connections to the sacred and perversion, amongst other concepts. With regard to the sacred, Kristeva claims that abjection forms part of all ‘religious structurings’ and surfaces in rituals concerning ‘defilement and pollution’ in paganism, and the exclusion of substances linked to food or sexuality, ‘the execution of which coincides with the sacred … The various means of

complex and layered means to scrutinise and uncover repression mechanisms and how these operate on an individual and collective level. In McCarthy’s work in particular, outbursts of violence are often connected to childhood imaginations, anxieties and icons. His Contemporary Cure All (1978), for instance, is a visceral performance to camera and live audience that employs a doll, mask and dildos. It is worth recounting the exemplary performance here in all its details by taking recourse to

offence. 11. Mat Collishaw, Bullet Hole (1988–1993). None of the circumstances of this incident and of those involved are explicated. The formal ‘beauty’ of the image holds the horror of the occurrence at bay. It shuts out feelings of terror, at least initially. The images of victims of war, genocide, terrorism and starvation, of fatalities in road, rail and air accidents, of natural and man-made catastrophes, victims of murder, manslaughter and suicide flicker daily over the TV screen or stare

(Counter-)Currents 133 ‘luring’ or extolling oral and/or verbal commentary. In Ruff’s mono-sensual reproductions these elements are ‘shut out’. Instead, the corporeal gestures and optical signals that have become conventionalised in the advertisement and selling of sex are ‘placed’ centre-stage. The reworked still images bring to the fore the ‘crude baiting for visual creed’ of this kind of exhibition of bodies.12 They underscore the visual dimension of the production of obscene material in its

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