It is Saturday night and marks the end of summer in southern hemisphere. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is one of the biggest parties in Australia. Streets are closed for floats to express and promote their messages. After the show, the Parade is over but the party has just begun. The barricades are taken away and the spectators flow into the streets. The parade route is full of milk crates, broken chairs and garbage. People keep on partying elsewhere whilst some are still wandering around.
It is the works of City of Sydney and NSW Police to turn the chaos back into order. They clear the footpath, sweep the rubbish, pile it onto a mat and scoop it up into a truck while the police patrol up and down, making sure everything goes smoothly. Within three hours the streets are almost spot and ready for normal traffic.
For many contemporary artists, taboos and prohibitions are the sweetest things to explore and play with. Abjection in arts goes beyond a call for an attention. It is the reflection of ego that can be found in the traces of body.
When Andres Serrono’s Piss Christ stirred up National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and caused artist freedom controversy, other young artists realised that they were be able to provoke and offend people, especially far right neo-evangelist. After the peak of the American dream, grunge generation realised that the promise would never be delivered since the jobs were outsourced to developing countries and the figure of young Yuppies entrepreneur became just an illusion.
The most influential concept of abjection would be Julia Kristeva’s book, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. She examined the idea that as we felt the last scum of milk, it connected mother and a child and made us aware us of our own mortality, primal moment trauma that we were not bounded and protected from mother any more. These bodily fluid and abject objects universally reminded us of it. Since then abjection became a buzzword of the artists and curators who read the book.
The most important exhibition was Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s, which explored the darkness of Los Angeles with sex and violence. It featured the key artists such as Paul McCarthy, which strongly connected with the generation and Mike Kelly who questioned the value of family relationship.
Female artist like Kiki Smith depicts human productivity and asks whether women are stuck in that role. Orlan, a French artist, she transforms to be a perfect woman by going several cosmetic surgeries and becomes a monster herself. While male artist such as Takashi Murakami, Matthew Barney and Chapman Brother explore our estranging human bodies with fantasies and surrealism.
It had a ripple effect on pop culture as well. Kurt and Courtney, for instance, she was a new role model against divas in those days. Alexander McQueen did the same to fashion industry by not embracing model body but irritating notion of body reception. Kate Moss was the best example of bad behaviour model. Young girls cannot be controlled now.
The aim of abjection seems to be just to shock the audience but the approaches of these artists, exploring the fragment of bodies and degraded elements, can reveal who we are and object to those stereotypical values in modern society.
This essay is a part of Critical Response Files for Art after Postmodernism class, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.
To satisfy my obsession and to deal with the flood of photo shots of junk on the streets of Sydney, I make another work to send in Video Art at CoFA for the loop project. It is about a year when I first one of the series in the workshop with Metro Screen, Anywhere Chairs and then Waif.
This time my subject is dead TVs and I push myself up a notch by doing it frame by frame like animation. It is finished a week in advance before the class viewing because the evening clashes with Marrickville Art Prize opening night. But it has not been shown the to class yet. So yes, you see it before it is official. Unfornately, the compression cannot cope wih a video that changes almost every frame like this one. However, you can see the better encoding version in Quicktime Movie. Be warned that the file is fairly large (11Mb) for a 30-second movie.
So Long Cathy from ApostrophePong on Vimeo.
I was wondering if you would be mesmerised by it when see in loop on a CRT television. I will let you know when I find the best place for a proper public viewing.