BID Lecture 3: Abjection

Delivery Date: 06 February 2020 | lecturer: Dr. Pavlos Kountouriotis

Summary | “I expel myself, I spit myself out, I abject myself within the same motion through which ‘I’ claim to establish myself” (Kristeva 1982:3). How are the boundaries of the body delineated? What counts as ‘myself’ and where is the ‘other’ in terms of corporeal subjectivity? How many artists exploited the forces of taboo and transgression in relation to the materiality of the body?

Introductory Reading

  • Mcafee, N. (2004). Julia Kristeva. London & New York: Routledge. Pp. 45-57

Compulsory Reading

  • Kristeva, J., & Roudiez, L. S. (1982). Powers of horror: An essay on abjection. New York: Columbia University Press. Pp.1-18, 26-89
  • Campbell, P. (1998). With\out An-aesthetic : The Terrible Beauty of Franko B. TDR : The Drama Review. 42 (4), 56-67.
  • Ahmed, S. (2014). The performativity of Disgust in The Cultural Politics of Emotions (2nd ed), Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd.

Recommended Reading

  • Foster, H. (1996). The return of the real: The avant-garde at the end of the century. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Harradine, D. (2000). Abject identities and fluid performances: theorizing the leaking body. Contemporary Theatre Review, 10(3): 69-85
  • Creed, B., McDonald, C. (1993). The Monstrous Feminine: Film. Feminism. Psychoanalysis. London and NY: Routledge
  • Ben Levi, I.., Rouser, C., Jones, L.C., Taylor, S. (1993). Abject Art: Repulsion and Desire In American Art. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. exh. cat.
  • Baudrillard, J. (1983). The Ecstasy of Communication. In H. Foster (ed.) The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Port Townsend, Washington: Bay Press.
  • Morris, D. B. (1991). The culture of pain. Berkeley: University of California Press. Pp. 125-197 & 224-243 & 267-291

Transgression as an offence to the other – are you making “the other”trangress” or are you transgressing?

What law are you trying to transgress?

What do I want to achive? What is the context? What are the consequences?

Abject – psychoanalytical perspective (Kristeva): Lacan’s process of subjectivication (emergence of the “I”, subject and OBject). The boundaries of the body are delineated. The subject expels out what is not part of the “I”. The ABject is expelled out of the subject. The boundaries are permeable. If something gets out it can also go back in, reminding there is not actual bouder between I and OBject, Private and Public. This threatens the subjectivity.

2nd level of abjection: corpse – taboo of death. A corpse reminds us there you be a moment when we will be unable to do anything.

3rd level of abjection: Mother – you were part of the mother whist still in the semiotic chora (before entering the symbolic order through language). Analog to things you leave behind in life with the development of subjectivity.

The Abject has more power when it is not spoken about it

Perversion as used by Lacan – the abject is perverse because it does not give up but it does not become a law. It does not give clarity of how it wants to be perceived.

juissance – the experience of pleasure through abjection (eg. drug addiction, fear of dirt and the pleasure of stating it)

abject – disturbing identity, in between, ambiguous, it does not respect borders. See “Powers of Horror” by Kristeva

If there is law there is transgression.

Bob Flannegan – video/poem – supermasochistic artist – he had cystic fibrosis “Why”(1985)

Pain is a perception – nervous system (not mix up psychological suffering with pain)

Some people self-inflict in order to feel pain to relieve suffering

The sacred demands the abject, it is based on the abject. But the profane cannot have it

Cindy Sherman – Untitled #175 (1987)

Carolee Schneeman – Meat Joy (1964)

Keira O’Reilly – “Succour” (2002) / “Inthewrongplaceness” (2005) / “Wet Cup” (2003)

Yann Marussich – “Blue Remix” (2006) – he took a pill that made all his body fluids blue – “chemical body”

Franko B –