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Summary: The abject – expressed through the grotesque, the gross and the physically challenging – has long been a source of innovation and scandal in the art world. For Kristeva abjection accounts for much of the complexity of the human condition. She understands abjection to encompass various aspects of our humanity that are often seen as conceptually and/or experientially disparate – emotion, embodiment, affect, repression, criminality, hygiene etc. Kristeva’s guiding intuition is that the abject helps arbitrate between our perception of ourselves as subject and object. In the liminal space between the two, the “I” is experienced in its full heterogeneity to the frequent detriment of traditional ethical, aesthetic, and scientific considerations. This has direct bearing on performance art, whose history is marked by the deliberate departure from beauty and, concurrently, the constant renegotiation of identity between the extremes of subject and object.
Comment: Best if read together with Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny”
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