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Abject Art

Abject art is an art form associated with Material and Object art, and refers to works, which contain abject subjects, materials and substances. The term "Abject art" was first used in the 1990s, by the French literary theorist and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva (born 1941). In her book "Pouvoirs de l'horreur. Essai sur l'abjection", Kristeva introduced the idea of "abjection" as the basis of a fundamental differentiation between the self and non-self. Abjection was defined as a reaction to the confrontation with the "abject", triggered by disgust or phobia (in this context, it refers to the products of processes of elimination, corpses and insects) which nonetheless have no status as objects, and do not belong to the self, and thus are seen as a threat by the subject, who rejects them. The word "abject" derives from the Latin word "abicere" (English: to throw away) and the French word "abject".
The roots of Abject art can be traced back to the early 20th century. The Surrealists made the first abject art works, which was particularly pronounced in Hans Bellmer’s (1902-75) oeuvre. Abject art often triggered religious and political debates, one key example being Andre Serrano’s (born 1950) "Piss Christ" (1987), which shows a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine. It was subsequently was regarded as an icon of Abject art. Female artists made important contributions to Abject art, particularly in connection with feminist debates and an increased focus on the body. VALIE EXPORT’s (born 1940) work "Aktionshose: Genitalpanik" (1969) thematised the artist’s abject body parts by depicting herself wearing a pair of trousers with a missing crotch. At the beginning of the 1970s, Judy Chicago (born 1939) made menstruation the focus of a number of her works ("Red Flag" 1971 and "Menstruation Bathroom" (1972)). Other artists whose work is associated with the genre includes Vito Acconci, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Carolee Schneemann and Hannah Wilke.


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