Abjection in Art

Abjection in Art:
“Explores themes that transgress and threaten our sense of cleanliness and propriety particularly referencing the body and bodily functions.” Tate.org.ukPiero ManzoniIn May 1961, while he was living in Milan, Piero Manzoni produced ninety cans of Artist’s Shit. Each was numbered on the lid 001 to 090. Tate’s work is number 004. A label on each can, printed in Italian, English, French and German, identified the contents as ‘”Artist’s Shit”, contents 30gr net freshly preserved, produced and tinned in May 1961.’In December 1961 Manzoni wrote in a letter to the artist Ben Vautier: ‘I should like all artists to sell their fingerprints, or else stage competitions to see who can draw the longest line or sell their shit in tins. The fingerprint is the only sign of the personality that can be accepted: if collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there’s the artist’s own shit, that is really his.’ (Letter reprinted in Battino and Palazzoli p.144.)


It is not known exactly how many cans of Artist’s Shit were sold within Manzoni’s lifetime, but a receipt dated 23 August 1962 certifies that Manzoni sold one to Alberto Lùcia for 30 grams of 18-carat gold (reproduced in Battino and Palazzoli p.154). Manzoni’s decision to value his excrement on a par with the price of gold made clear reference to the tradition of the artist as alchemist already forged by Marcel Duchamp and Yves Klein among others. -http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/manzoni-artists-shit-t07667Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois’s work, which spanned most of the twentieth century, was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father’s infidelity. Bourgeois’s often brooding and sexually explicit subject matter and her focus on three-dimensional form were rare for women artists at the time.Bourgeois transformed her experiences into a highly personal visual language through the use of mythological and archetypal imagery, adopting objects such as spirals, spiders, cages, medical tools, and sewn appendages to symbolize the feminine psyche, beauty, and psychological pain.- http://www.theartstory.org/artist-bourgeois-louise.htmlouisePortrait of Louise Bourgeouis, by Robert Mapplethorpe. 1982louise2Janus Fleurie, 1968. Louise Bourgeouis.”You might equally think of collapsing kidneys, even a turd. A compelling portrayal of sexuality exploding, then falling in a heap. “louise3mamanKiki SmithKiki Smith (American, b. 1954, Nuremberg, Germany) has been known since the 1980s for her multidisciplinary practice relating to the human condition and the natural world.She uses a broad variety of materials to continuously expand and evolve a body of work that includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing and textile.- http://www.pacegallery.com/artists/442/kiki-smithWith the death of her father in 1980, Smith turned her attention to themes of mortality and decay, focusing on human corporeality. In 1985, propelled by an interest in obtaining practical knowledge about the body, Smith studied to become an emergency medical technician. The impact of this experience on her work was immediate and profound. Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law (1985) is a series of nine screenprints and monotypes of deadpan views of various internal organs.w1siziisijiwntexmyjdlfsiccisimnvbnzlcnqilcitcmvzaxpliduxmng1mtjcdtawm2uixv0w1siziisijiwnjixnsjdlfsiccisimnvbnzlcnqilcitcmvzaxpliduxmng1mtjcdtawm2uixv0w1siziisijiwnjixmijdlfsiccisimnvbnzlcnqilcitcmvzaxpliduxmng1mtjcdtawm2uixv0Lungs, Pancreas and Brain from Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law (1985)Smith’s most unsettling sculptures address the alliance between femininity and abjection. Pee Body (1992) depicts a nude female figure in wax, crouched on the floor relieving herself, urine trailing behind in the form of yellow beads.6813751931_1fa3f4fbb5_bads.Pee body, 1992.A gush of red beads streams from the vagina of the standing nude in Train (1993), while Tail (1992) presents a similar personage on all fours with a long trail of excrement extending from her anus. Smith sustains equally honest, jarring representations of femininity in works devoted to Little Red Riding Hood, Eve, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary.- https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/kiki-smithtumblr_inline_n6jq56b0jh1rtdws8kikismith
Mary KellyMary Kelly is known for her project-based work, addressing questions of sexuality, identity and historical memory in the form of large-scale narrative installations. In 1968, at the peak of the student movements in Europe, she moved to London, England to continue postgraduate study at St. Martinʼs School of Art. There, she began her long-term critique of conceptualism, informed by the feminist theory of the early womenʼs movement in which she was actively involved throughout the 1970s.Post-Partum Document is a six-year exploration of the mother-child relationship. When it was first shown at the ICA in London in 1976, the work provoked tabloid outrage because Documentation I incorporated stained nappy liners. Each of the six-part series concentrates on a formative moment in her son’s mastery of language and her own sense of loss, moving between the voices of the mother, child and analytic observer. Informed by feminism and psychoanalysis, the work has had a profound influence on the development and critique of conceptual art.- http://www.marykellyartist.com/post_partum_document.htmlp4-abject-borsatoCindy ShermanWork from 1985-1991In the 1980s and 1990s—decades characterized in the United States by politically charged debates about censorship in the arts and the specter of AIDS—Sherman’s investigation of macabre and grotesque narratives led to the physical disintegration of the body in her work and her eventual disappearance from the pictures.This gallery features photographs from several series exploring these themes, including the series known as the fairy tales (1985), disasters (1986–89), and sex pictures (1992), underscoring Sherman’s preoccupation with horror and the abject throughout the years.sherman5shermansherman002cherman003Richard Billingham – Photographs from his family in the late 90’s.A portrayal of the poverty and deprivation in which he grew up. The photographs, which were taken on the cheapest film he could find, provide brash colours and bad focus which adds to the authenticity and frankness of the series. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Billingham010203Sarah LucasWatch the video: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2015/may/06/sarah-lucas-venice-biennale-2015-behind-scenes-i-scream-daddio-videoEnglish sculptor, installation artist and photographer emerged as one of the major Young British Artists during the 1990s, with a body of highly provocative work. In the early 1990s she began using furniture as a substitute for the human body, usually with crude genital punning. In works such as Bitch (table, t-shirt, melons, vacuum-packed smoked fish, 1995), she merges low-life misogynist tabloid culture with the economy of the ready-made, with the intention of confronting sexual stereotyping.- http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/sarah-lucas-2643ecc29d0f42789f9cbd52aa5ca7cae53d-1Bitch, Sarah Lucas, 1995. Wood, enameled metal, cotton, synthetics, smoked fish and plastic (80,5 x 104 x 67)Lucas’s [work] is both enormously enjoyable and awful: awful because much of what she shows us about our relationship to the human body and our psyches is as grim as it is hilarious – the toilet as an extension of the human digestive tract, as receptical not just of waste but of parts of ourselves, dark thoughts as well as dark matter. She can bring us up short: a cigar and a couple of walnuts are balanced on the rim of a begrimed loo. I imagine the smell of the cigar and the taste of walnuts. It’s stomach-churning.- https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/30/sarah-lucas-whitechapel-gallery

Sarah Lucas: Deep Cream Maradona, British Pavilion 2015, Photo by Cristiano Corte © British Council

“Creativity in Britain doesn’t shy away from the fact things can be shit, but also funny; and that sex itself can be ludicrous and silly.”

Sarah Lucas: I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015, Photo by Cristiano Corte © British Council
Sarah Lucas: Octopus Spam Plinth, British Pavilion 2015, Photo by Cristiano Corte
© British Council
Sarah Lucas: I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015,

Janine Antoni

American artist born in the Bahamas. Antoni’s work blurs the distinction between performance art and sculpture. Transforming everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and sleeping into ways of making art, Antoni’s primary tool for making sculpture has always been her own body.

She has chiseled cubes of lard and chocolate with her teeth, washed away the faces of soap busts made in her own likeness, and used the brainwave signals recorded while she dreamed at night as a pattern for weaving a blanket the following morning.- http://www.art21.org/artists/janine-antoni


Janine Antoni, Mortar and Pestle, 1999. The artist talked about this work being a way to explore a “taste of vision.”

Mika RottenbergVideo-installation artist Mika Rottenberg creates mini-factories, farms, and tableaux, which produce products variously made by tremendously fat, tall, muscled, long-haired or long-fingernailed women.Women, who in their own lives commodify their eccentricities, are, in Rottenberg’s films, featured as “bearers of production.” To make their merchandise, the protagonists have to pedal, squeeze, cry, sweat, massage, dig, push, burrow, morph, cross continents, and use more than a bit of alchemy. You smell the flowers and sweat; you hear the sounds of breathing, nails tapping, sweat sizzling, milk hitting tin; you feel the breezes, and the squeezing of flesh, its bursting out of constraints.- Judith Hudson, http://bombmagazine.org/article/3617/mika-rottenbergI like the idea of the body expanding and becoming an object. I like this duality, this connector between interior space and exterior space. I remember being fascinated by that. And I just like how it looks. That might be visual fetishism.”- Mika Rottenberg, http://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/fetishizing-the-visual-an-interview-with-mika-rottenberg

“The action of sweating and, in this case, a horizontal movement. I wanted to create a sort of clock: a person works, takes a certain amount of time to create sweat, then there is a measurement of how much you sweat. The goal is set. I chose to make the truck the factory because of its horizontal structure. I also wanted to make the product as it’s delivered, so it’s always fresh.”- Mika Rottenberg, http://bombmagazine.org/article/3617/mika-rottenberg

Mika Rottenberg, Video stills from Tropical Breeze, 2004, single-channel video installation, duration: 3:45. http://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/fetishizing-the-visual-an-interview-with-mika-rottenberg
Mika Rotterbrg. Still from Dough, 2005-2006, single-channel video installation, duration: 7 minutes, dimensions variable. http://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/fetishizing-the-visual-an-interview-with-mika-rottenberg

Damian Moppett – Canadian

Utilizing multiple mediums including photography, sculpture, drawing, painting and video, Damian Moppett’s conceptual and studio-based practice explores our relationship to art history both distant and recent.



Rachel de Joode

The strangeness of the shapes sometimes gives the work a look of abnormal scientific discoveries combining unknown minerals and molecules. De Joode’s work, as the result of an alchemy between raw material and the artist’s brain, is to be auscultated and dissected; it is porous, filled with cracks, abstract surfaces, giving way to the mysterious and extra-terrestrial.


Rachel de Joode is constantly seeking for raw substances, oozing pastes, or anything flabby but particularly photogenic that she will then tame with all the technological tools at her disposal. Going as far as a trompe l’œil, her pieces play with the ambiguity between 2D and 3D, between photographs and objects, that tends to make reality a little more artificial.- http://www.ofluxo.net/porosity-by-rachel-de-joode-galerie-christophe-gaillard/


Rachel de Joode, Installation view Porosity, 2015 /http://www.ofluxo.net/porosity-by-rachel-de-joode-galerie-christophe-gaillard/
Rachel de Joode, Installation view Porosity, 2015 /http://www.ofluxo.net/porosity-by-rachel-de-joode-galerie-christophe-gaillard/

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