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Abject VisionsPowers of Horror in Art and Visual Culture$
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Rina Arya and Nicholas Chare

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719096280

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719096280.001.0001

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Queering abjection: a lesbian, feminist and Canadian perspective

Queering abjection: a lesbian, feminist and Canadian perspective

(p.30) 2 Queering abjection: a lesbian, feminist and Canadian perspective
Abject Visions

Jayne Wark

Manchester University Press

Jayne Wark draws on the ideas of Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva as a means to examine the political potency of a number of works by the Canadian artists Allyson Mitchell, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, and Rosalie Favell whose practices are informed by feminist and lesbian politics. The artists work to problematize fixed identity categories. Wark seeks to move beyond what she perceives to be the limiting outlook of the conceptualisation of abject art offered by the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition on the theme. The exhibition lacked nuance and was too wedded to the political climate of the United States of the early 1990s. The Whitney curators had a national agenda and were responding to efforts to censor art and censure certain artists. Their political motivations do not seamlessly transfer to a consideration of contemporary Canadian art. For Wark, each of the artists she considers strives, in different ways, to resignify the abject. They therefore employ it as a critical resource in the way Judith Butler envisages. As the Whitney exhibition and the essay by Wark demonstrates, thinking about modernist and contemporary works through the prism of abjection allows us to recognize their political radicalism and to understand how they confront the repressive tendencies of dominant culture at specific historical moments.

Keywords:   Feminist and lesbian politics, Lesbian aesthetics, Abject Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Resignifying abjection, Judith Butler, Canadian Art

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