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Channelling Jimmy Saville's Apology | Spiritual Life | Ascending-the-path
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Samantha Saville Photo provided by Samantha Saville. Share this: Tweet. Like this: Like Loading Published by Danita Burke. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Of course, sanitizing and controlling immediate, sometimes offensive, sometimes dangerous, bodily responses often has undeniable benefit. She sets out to make her spectators acknowledge their gut reactions. I begin with Darwin and psychologists Rozin, Haidt, and McCauley , for whom disgust is an emotion that is grounded in physiology. Their arguments reveal the extent to which disgust is often assumed to be a biologi- cal and thus natural response to things that are disgusting.
Countering their arguments are writers who insist upon the social and cultural foundations of disgust. Anthropologist Mary Douglas places social structure at the center of her theory of contami- nation, which I read as the structural foundation upon which disgust develops. Reading Douglas alongside psychoanalysis, Kristeva introduces the conception of abjection. Abjection forms the basis of my understanding of an aesthetics of disgust. Unlike the approach taken by the fat pride movement, in which disgust is resolutely refused, an aesthetics of disgust founded on ambiguity offers an opportunity to both acknowledge and interrupt disgust reactions—which is to say that it allows us to feel disgust in order to interrogate its sources.
By drawing on each of these thinkers, I develop an aesthetics of disgust that keeps the physical, the cultural, and the personal implications of disgust in play.
By emphasizing taste as it is related to ingestion, Darwin avoids addressing the moral—and thus culturally formulated—disgust that underpins his experience in Tierra del Fuego. Refusing the food touched by the Tierra del Fuegan is a refusal of close contact with a stranger—it allows Darwin to maintain a strict boundary between his way of life and that of the stranger and his customs. Like Darwin, they insist that the acts of eating and tasting are the origins of disgust. Where Rozin and his colleagues differ from Darwin is that they place disgust in both developmental and cultural contexts.
That is to say, they argue that core disgust—the biological drive to protect the body—has, over time, developed into something more like moral repugnance. While Darwin failed to address the social and cultural contexts in which disgust is experienced, Rozin and his colleagues recognize that although disgust has its origins in instinctual drives, its contemporary manifestations are shaped by cultural habituation. Put another way, they use a concept called preadaptation to explain the ways that disgust as a biological imperative is co-opted for a new function, namely the protection of social orders via the regulation of moral offenses.
In developing an aesthetics of disgust, it is helpful to understand the biologi- cal foundations that Darwin and Rozin, Haidt, and McCauley propose for the emotion of disgust. For one thing, their analyses highlight the extent to which disgust is a bodily reaction. Disgust is a physical reaction, a reflex relatively unresponsive to the will. Reactions such as gagging, cringing, shuddering, or recoiling are difficult to control. They are instantly recognizable and unam- biguous responses.
It feels instinctive; it feels irrepressible. The physicality of disgust is important for my understanding of an aesthetics of disgust. As stated earlier, an aesthetics of disgust offers an opportunity to pay attention to the body. The aesthetics of disgust should alert us to our bodily response, but it should also encourage us to investigate the origins of that bodily response. Despite their recognition of the role of culture, Rozin and his colleagues agree with Darwin that the origins of disgust are gustatory.
Her aesthetics of disgust more fully alerts us to the social and cultural components of disgust. In order to further develop an aesthetics of disgust, then, I turn to anthropologist Douglas , for whom the origins of disgust are framed in terms of pollution. Douglas is concerned with large-scale structural frameworks that serve to organize culture. For Douglas, disgust is framed in terms of the concept of pollution. In systems ordered by structures of pollution, things that are out of place are dangerous.
The main work of social structure is to impose order on a system inherently unruly Douglas , 5.
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As Douglas puts it, dirt is in the eye of the beholder. I want to emphasize the extent to which objects are rendered disgusting or dirty through implicit social agreements. This is not to say, however, that disgust has an artificial or dispensable character. Recognizing disgust as socially constructed or habituated does not mean that we are now able to opt out of disgust, or that we are now able to apply disgust selectively. It means, on the contrary, that disgust reveals something about the way our social orders are structured and how we variously inhabit those social orders.
In short, disgust is a habituated emotion linked to and reflective of cultural paradigms. Disgust, however, has a firmer hold on us. While Douglas attends to the establishment and patrol of culturally created boundaries, Kristeva attends to the ways in which establishing boundaries between oneself as subject and others as objects is central to psychic development. Thus abjection carries with it an element of crisis, or to use a term that Saville connects to her work, difficulty.
It is this insecurity that distinguishes the object from the abject. An aesthetics of disgust needs to deal with this difficult relationship. Abjection points to the ways that disgust is also profoundly personal. This is not to say that disgust is simply a personal preoccupation, but rather that disgust reveals the ways in which social and cultural paradigms are experienced as personal preoccupations. For Douglas, disgust reveals incongruity; for Kristeva, that incongruity is not simply a threat to the social order but also a threat to personal stability.
By materializing the abject female body, Saville reveals what lurks in the feminine imagination. That is to say, by representing a specific idea of femininity, she speaks to the disparity between the way that many women feel about their bodies and the reality of how those bodies are perceived by others. These are bodies that are not disgusting but are lived as if they were disgusting. This shock of disgust alerts a viewer to her status as an embodied, interested, and involved specta- tor.
Drawing out the physical aspects of disgust is, however, only a first step. By playing on disgust, Saville sets her spectators in a position to interrogate that disgust. Here, Saville is speaking in a familiar feminist language, a theory of the body that is exemplified by the work of Susan Bordo The contemporary slenderness ideal is less a concern with weight than it is a concern with a slim, smooth, contained body profile Bordo , — Bordo draws her conclusions from analyses of contemporary popular representations of women in films, magazines, and television programs.
However, she is also directly engaging the tradition of painting and art making more generally. That is to say, at its height, art practice transforms the naked body into the nude form. As Mulvey, Bordo, and Nead point out, the female body is conventionally framed and explored as an object and an objectified possession of the implicitly male viewer.
This work is so compelling because Saville manages to render flesh that is unman- aged and unmanageable. Saville is intrigued by flesh and the way it behaves. In another interview, she explains that she sometimes thinks of her paint as tins of liquid flesh that she spreads onto a canvas Darwent , 5. After graduating from art college, Saville spent time with plastic surgeons in their offices, gaining exposure to the ways that flesh can be manipulated and to the ways that flesh recovers from manipulation in the form of bruising, scarring, and swelling. Viewing the surgeons at work, as well as surgery manuals, has undoubtedly enhanced her ability to render flesh in this provocative fashion.
At the same time, plastic surgery further alerted Saville to the larger struggle that women have with their bodies.
Expressive portrait painters - Jenny Saville
Female embodiment, she seems to say, is full of contradictions—sometimes we see our bodies as attractive, and at other times we see them as disgusting. In the attempt to portray and explore the lived contradictions and ambiguities of feminine embodiment, Saville paints female figures that seem to come alive. As the example of fat pride suggests, contemporary corporeal politics repudiate disgust as an inappropriate reaction. Viewing Propped or Plan is an aesthetic experience that places a spectator in close contact with the abject. By depicting the fat female body, Saville portrays the abject and urges women to confront the familiar disgust that we often lodge against our own bodies in their failure to measure up to alienating body ideals.
These paintings are an opportunity to acknowledge this disgust, to locate it in social and cultural frameworks, and to recognize the extent to which those social and cultural frameworks influence how we experience our bodies and the bodies of other women. For many women, the recognition of disgust is an opportunity to inter- rogate the problem of living ones body as if it were disgusting. Put another way, it offers the opportunity to think about what it means for women to live in a perpetual struggle with the abject female body. To use language inspired by Michel Foucault , the representation of the abject body speaks to the ways in which women experience social and cultural imperatives through self-surveillance, self-denial, and constant control.
The paintings are thus an opportunity to feel and examine a physical reaction that seems out of our control. By paying close attention to the visceral reactions elicited by these works, I have explored the framework for an aesthetics of disgust. Taken together, these thinkers help to formulate an aesthetics of disgust that keeps the multiple aspects of this strange and difficult emotion in play.
More specifically, given her imagery and her political inclinations, these works develop a feminist aesthet- ics of disgust. I would also like to express my thanks to Roger Lancaster for his close reading of an earlier version of this paper, to Debra Bergoffen, Katrina Irving, and Jeff Stepnisky for their ongoing encouragement, and to the three anonymous readers and guest editors whose thoughtful comments put me on a different path. Bordo, Susan. Unbearable weight: Feminism, western culture, and the body.
Berkeley: University of California Press. Butler, Judith. Darwent, Charles. Big really does mean beautiful. The Independent London. Darwin, Charles. The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Davies, Hunter. This is Jenny, and this is her plan. Deleuze, Gilles.
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Essays critical and clinical. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. In these ways, she is completely vulnerable and objectified. Saville challenges the traditional ideas surrounding femininity and perfection. Even as a petite, slender woman, she depicts herself in unusual grotesque positions in other pieces that make the viewer self-conscious for her. Although most of her paintings are unsuitable for school situations, there are handfuls that are still appropriate such as Reverse.
In many of her pieces, the human body is portrayed in away that in never thought of as pleasing. For classroom integration, I would use both of these techniques, just in a more suitable way for students. Intended for high school students, they would create an unconventional self-portrait pencil drawing. Examples of portraits that would be construed as unconventional include close-ups, cropping of body positions, or unusual body positions. Then, based on those drawings, students would create an expressive painting using the intentional brushstroke techniques of Saville as well as a varied color palette to create exaggerated self-portraits.