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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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Skin, body, self: the question of the abject in the work of Francis Bacon

Skin, body, self: the question of the abject in the work of Francis Bacon

(p.119) 7 Skin, body, self: the question of the abject in the work of Francis Bacon
Abject Visions

Ernst van Alphen

Manchester University Press

Ernst van Alphen’s essay is a synoptic study of abjection in the context of Francis Bacon’s art: it investigates the various ways and senses in which Bacon’s art can be described as abject. On the face of it, Bacon’s paintings are abject but this appearance needs to be probed further to examine the significance of the boundary between matter and representation, for instance, and of his figures themselves which are fragmented and which demonstrate various positions of subjecthood at risk. Calling on the work of theorists including Mikhail Bakhtin and Roland Barthes, van Alphen explores the identity of the Baconian figure and argues for a fresh way of thinking about the abject condition of Bacon’s figures. A further area of study in his essay draws on Hal Foster’s work and concerns how the viewer is provoked to complete the operation of the abject, which results in a reshattering of the viewer’s sense of self. Van Alphen’s study shows how abjection can be used to elicit a host of other Baconian themes about representation, viewing and identity.

Keywords:   Abjection in Francis Bacon, Representation, viewing and identity, Subjecthood at risk

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