Reading Notes: Art Monsters – unruly bodies in feminist art, by Lauren Elkin

Very excited to have finally got my hands on a copy of this book . The perfect reading in the run-up to the new edition of The Body Room happening in partnership with Goldsmiths University in May 2024

As ever these reading notes are the bits I heavily underlined and noted for future reference.

001 Angels and Monsters

‘This disruption becomes a parable of self-censorship’

[ On Woolf’s writing about about creative flow, and how for women writers she felt it was more common that thoughts about their body could puncture their line of thinking’

‘our boundaries have been policed’

‘art .. makes the familiar strange, wakes us from our habits, enables us to envision other ways of being, and lets the body and the imagination speak and dream outside the strict boundaries placed on them by society, patriarchy and internalised misogyny’

‘we can understand a culture by what it calls monstruous’ – [Jeffrey Jerome Cohen]

‘when we uphold this pretty/ugly binary, we condemn ourselves to remaining the second sex’

‘how to be in a female body in the early 21st century’

‘it seemed crucial that we find a way to cure our self-repulsion, to expand – through an attention to the possibilities and forms of embodiment’

002 objects of vulgarity

‘most problematically, it take the body and repulsion as universal, ahistorical concepts when in fact they are anything but. By thinking about bodily repulsion in this way, we avoid having to look at or think about particular bodies – least of all our own.’

‘theories of the abject don;’ begin to capture how women themselves feel about their bodies, from the inside .. to what degree is disgust innate, or learned?’

‘A quote from Luce Irigaray’s essay ‘When our Lips Speak Together’ : “If we continue to speak in this sameness – speak as men have spoken for centuries, we will fail each other. Again words will pass through our bodies, above our heads – disappear, make us disappear”

003 this monster the body

From Adrienne Rich .. ‘everyone, she says, who lives “under the naming and image-making power of a dominant culture’ runs the risk of “mental-fragementation” and needs to find their way to language of their own, an “art that can resist it”.’

004 ucky

‘Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s 2002 book ‘Touching Feeling’. In the introduction, she recalls a graduate student of hers at Duke called Renu Bora, whose essay ‘Outing Texture’ brilliantly and delightfully distinguishes between ‘texture’ and ‘texxture’. Texture with an extra x is, Sedgwick writes ‘ dense with offered information about how, substantively, historically, materially, it came into being’

‘Touch, says the artist Rosalyn Driscoll, is “a way for all of us”, including the visually impaired, “to know art”. She proposes whaat she calls ‘aesthetic touch’ as a more attentive act than our everyday contact with surfaces, phones, keys, shoe laces, what have you. This would bring our focus instead to ‘formal elements such as shape, space, and pattern’ and allow for an attunement to the ’emotional implications of what we perceive’

Useful References

Driscoll, Rosalyn, The Sensing Body in the Visual Arts: Making and Experiencing Sculpture, 2020

Rich, Adrienne, Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations. 2001