Kiki Smith, Untitled, 1990

The notion of the abject (that which has been cast out) in art is seen as an integral part of the process of identification, of developing a sense of self. It deals with dichotomies such as subject/object, inside/outside, identity/difference. Abjection lies in the zone between…err…visually, the zone that is taken up by the backslash. hah.

Anyways, this was an important idea for feminist art because it points to the ambiguity of the borders of these oppositions. Therefore what constitutes the end of my body? Where is the end of my subjecthood/objecthood? The cadaver is the ultimate abjection.

This piece by Kiki Smith explores the limits of the body. The figures are a red wax covered in beeswax with simulated milk and semen dripping from the figures respectively. They are lifeless with their “life filling potential” being spent. They are slumped over, and to quote Heidegger, as “beings towards death”, falling into a state of objecthood from subjecthood. It embodies abjection and in doing so, questions what is the minimum requirement to be a subject, to be human. However, Kiki Smith accedes, “you can lose a lot of your body and still be you”.

Notes

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    I figured I should point out, this piece was surprisingly covered in Janson’s History of Art. While we never covered...
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