Pretty gross : aestheticized abjection in feminist video art, 1996-2009
Aestheticized abjection in feminist video art, 1996-2009
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture.
Eugenie Brinkema and Kristel Smentek.
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This thesis examines the work of three video artists -- Pipilotti Rist, Marilyn Minter, and Mika Rottenberg -- who all make work that is simultaneously mesmerizing and repulsive. While Immanuel Kant has argued that beauty and disgust are opposed, these works complicate this binary, as does my choice of the more minor terms "pretty" and "gross." My weaker descriptors encapsulate the desensitization to seductive and disgusting imagery that, in the media-saturated context of the late 90s/early 2000s, is the result of their pervasiveness and thus banality. These artists respond to abject feminist performance art of the 1960s and 70s, which some critics at the time worried attracted the male gaze while setting out to avert it. Theorists of disgust, however, have long understood seduction as always already part of disgust, which the artists in "Pretty Gross" set out to tool strategically. They respond to representations of women as objects of fascination on screen by borrowing resources and formal devices from mass media created to seduce viewers and consumers, but train their lenses instead on traditionally disgusting imagery, from menstrual blood to saliva-coated caviar. Rendering the disgusting palatable, these artists have attracted massive popular audiences and revenue. Yet all have raised a number of ethical quandaries for their critics, who struggle to defend their attempts to reclaim representations of women's bodies from an abusive history. The widespread visibility and influence of their work makes this critical interrogation especially urgent. Ultimately, I argue that Rist, Minter, and Rottenberg reflect, rather than resolve, tensions between ethics and aesthetics, gender and image, as well as attraction and aversion.
Thesis: S.M., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture, 2018.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 124-135).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology