The Broken Body: Abjection

“A wound with blood and pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death - a flat encephalograph, for instance - I would understand, react, or accept. No, as in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being.”
- Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection
Robert Gober, Untitled, 1989 - 1990.











1980 - 1986 The Ballad of Sexual Dependency

Nan and Brian in Bed

Nan Goldin, Nan and Brian in Bed, 1983.





















Nan One Month After Being Beaten
Nan Goldin, Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984.
Nan Goldin, Heart Shaped Bruise, 1984.










Body Politics

  • Taking the lead of the feminists, artists continue to recognize the body as a political site
  • Examine the diseased, flawed, victimized and ignored body
  • Countered the modernist focus on abstraction and the objectification of the nude
  • Problematized the assumption that both the artist and the viewer are white male heterosexuals
Cindy Sherman, Untitled #175, 1987.











Cindy Sherman, Untitled #177,  1987.











Rona Pondick, View of Mouth in site-specific installation, Jose Friere Fine Art, New York, 1992 - 1993.
Rubber teeth, plastic, nipples, and flax, 600 unique elements, each approximately 3 x 5 x 2 ¾ inches.











"Bourgeois' work is a meditation on the past, and also a release of anger - chiefly, it seems from her own account, anger about a blocked and frustrated childhood, the sadistic teasing to which she was subjected by an anglophile father, and (most of all) the presence in her childhood home of her father's mistress."

- Edward Lucie - Smith
Louise Bourgeois, The Destruction of the Father, 1974.











"In Louise Bourgeois' work, we are often faced with the presence of subjects who desire, and who desire sexually. They are not immediate figures of desire but they position themselves clearly as operations of desire. Bourgeois' vengeance on the constraints of the 'wish to know' is to create the disorder of the forbidden. The right to know is my birth right." - Edward Lucie-Smith

Louise Bourgeois, Fillette (Little Girl), 1968.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Louise Bourgeois, 1982.






















Kiki Smith, Untitled, 1986.

Kiki Smith, Untitled, 1986. (Broad Museum installation)











“The abject confronts us… with our earliest attempts to release the hold of maternal entity even before ex-isting outside of her…. It is a violent, clumsy breaking away, with the constant risk of falling back under the sway of power as securing as it is stifling.” - Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection
Robert Gober, Untitled, 1995 - 1997.
Robert Gober, Untitled, 1995 - 1997.
Leather, wood, forged iron, cast plastics, bronze, silk satin, steel, beeswax, human hair, brick, fiberglass, urethane, paint, lead, motors, and water, 10’ ½” x 8’ 8” x 6’ 3”.











Janine Antoni, Loving Care, 1992.












Janine Antoni, Chocolate and Lard Gnaw, 1992.
600 lbs. of chocolate gnawed by the artist over a month, and 600 lbs. of lard (before licking and biting)











Janine Antoni, Lipsticks and Candy Box, 1992.
150 lipsticks made with pigment, beeswax, and chewed lard removed from the lard cube, and 45 heart-shaped packages made from the chewed chocolate removed from the chocolate cube.











“[The abject] is simply a frontier, a repulsive gift that the Other, having become alter ego, drops so that the ‘I’ does not disappear in it but finds, in that sublime alienation, a forfeited existence.”
- Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection
Kiki Smith, Tale, 1992.











Kiki Smith, Pee Body, 1992.
Kiki Smith, Train, 1993.











Robert Gober, Untitled, with Hanging Man / Sleeping Man Wallpaper, 1989 - 1996.
Silk satin, muslin, linen, tulle, welded steel, hand-printed silkscreen on paper,
cast hydrostone plaster, vinyl acrylic paint, ink, and graphite.
Dimensions variable, approximately 800 square feet installed.











pervert = to lead astray morally; to turn away from the right course; to turn to an improper use; misapply; to bring to a less excellent state; vitiate; debase; pathology, to change to what is unnatural or abnormal
Perverse Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait Nursing
Catherine Opie, Self-Portrait/ Pervert, 1994.
Catherine Opie, Self-Portrait Nursing, 2004.










Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917.
Robert Gober, Untitled, 1984.
Plaster, wood, wire lath, aluminum, watercolor, semi-gloss enamel paint. 28 x 33 x 22 1/2″ (71.1 x 83.8 x 57.2 cm)











Semen and Blood

Andres Serrano, Semen and Blood III, 1990.











Andres Serrano, The Morgue (AIDS related Death II), 1992.
Andres Serrano, The Morgue (Hacked to Death), 1992.











Andres Serrano, Self Portrait Shit, 2008.











Catherine Opie, Oliver in a Tutu, 2004.