Explicit material is more widely available in the internet age than ever before, yet the concept of "obscenity" remains as difficult to pin down as it is to approach without bias: notions of what is "obscene" shift with societies' shifting mores, and our responses to explicit or disturbing material can be highly subjective. In this intelligent and sensitive book, Kerstin Mey grapples with the work of twentieth century artists practising at the edges of acceptability, from Hans Bellmer through to Nobuyoshi Araki, from Robert Mapplethorpe to Annie Sprinkle, and from Hermann Nitsch to Paul McCarthy. Mey refuses sweeping statements and "kneejerk" responses, arguing with dexterity that some works, regardless of their "high art" context, remain deeply problematic, while others are both groundbreaking and liberating.
About the Author
Kerstin Mey is Chair in Fine Art and leads the research area 'Art and its Location' in the Interface: Centre for Research in Art, Technologies and Design project at the University of Ulster. She is General Editor of the Transcript series published by the School of Fine Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, in association with Manchester University Press.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations vi
'I Know It When I See It': On the definition and history of the category of the obscene 5
Transgressive Rituals 19
Abjection and Dis-ease 31
Violent Images: Aesthetic Simulations 52
'Playing with the Dead': The cadaver as fascinosum 72
Anti-Normative Acts: Radical liberation? 86
Obscenity and the Documentary Tradition 97
Recycled Fantasies: Obscenity between kitsch, convention and innovation 105
'Know Thyself? 116
Digital (Counter-)Currents 129