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Abjection, melancholia and ambiguity in the works of Catherine Bell

posted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by Estelle BarrettEstelle Barrett
Estelle Barrett is concerned with the multidisciplinary practice of the Australian artist Catherine Bell and seeks to show how artistic practice can extend, develop and reconfigure established conceptions of abjection, in particular those of Kristeva’s and Bataille’s. She argues that extant commentaries on abjection remain within the parameters of exposition and referentiality but do not adequately articulate the implications of abjection for understanding the aesthetic experience in both the making and viewing of art. This is often characterized by ambivalence (namely attraction and repulsion) and Barrett explores the transgressive (in the Bataillean sense) in the photographic and video work of Bell. By shifting the focus from the reading of an artwork to an experiential encounter, Barrett conveys the power of Bell’s practice to evoke a complex of sensory and cognitive feelings that often involves ambivalence. Abjection then is reconceived as an operational function and as a process that is engendered by aesthetic experience in the making and viewing of art, thus reinvigorating its potential.


Title of book

Abject visions : Powers of horror in art and visual culture

Chapter number



130 - 143


Oxford University Press

Place of publication

Oxford, Eng.





Publication classification

BN Other book chapter, or book chapter not attributed to Deakin

Copyright notice

2019, Oxford University Press




R Arya, N Chare