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Cindy Sherman: Abjection in the Disasters and Fairy Tales

ShermanÆs Abjection in the Disasters and Fairy Tales

As Kristeva describes it in Powers of Horror, Abjection preserves what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship, in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be" (Powers 10). While this may seem like a complex idea, the makeup of it is actually quite simple to grasp. The ôpre-objectal relationshipö that Kristeva speaks of is the time in youth and adolescence prior to the female's realization that she is not a subject, and is separated from herself as a perpetual other. Kristeva refers to this realization as abjectionùthat is, the violent and irreverent thoughts that accompany the feeling of otherness. In her disasters and fairy tales collection, Cindy Sherman seems to capture that violent, heaving feeling that Kristeva describes.

As Felluga describes in his modules on Kristeva,

...the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example for what causes such a reaction is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk (Felluga).

Certainly, we see echoes of these disgusting images in ShermanÆs work, concluding that the photographs which comprise the collection known as ôdisasters and fairy talesö are a characteristic depiction of KristevaÆs domain of abjection.

This image is most apparent, perhaps, in Untitled #175, where we see what looks like vomit on the beach among the seashells and trash. This photograph is certainly not beautiful; in fact, it turns the stomach of its audience. Sherman does this on purpose, shocking the audience to a point of illness in order to make her feminist point about socie...

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