21.7.17

Recauchutando el Esperpento


Hace algún tiempo, explorando algunos de los alcances del arte grotesco, nos referimos a Ramón del Valle-Inclán y su contribución en este campo a través de la introducción del esperpento. En esta nota, retomamos el asunto precisamente para reinvestigarlo y ponerlo al día.

Thoughts on My Plate
Escultura cerámica por Anna Barlow
UK, 2012

El grotesco teatral le debe no poco al esperpento, forma dramático-crítica creada por el español Ramón del Valle Inclán y presente en sus obras Luces de bohemia (1920-4), Los cuernos de don Friolera (1921-5) y Martes de carnaval: Esperpentos (1930).

Goya, Comiendo sopa, 1819-25

"Los héroes clásicos reflejados en los espejos cóncavos dan el Esperpento. El sentido trágico de la vida [...] solo puede darse con una estética sistemáticamente deformada. [...] Las imágenes más bellas en un espejo cóncavo son absurdas. [...] La deformación deja de serlo cuando está sujeta a una matemática perfecta. Mi estética actual es transformar con matemática de espejo cóncavo las normas clásicas" (Max Estrella, protagonista de Luces de Bohemia, escena XII). Otras ideas de Valle-Inclán: "Las imágenes más bellas son absurdas en un espejo cóncavo" y "El ciego se entera mejor de las cosas del mundo, los ojos son unos ilusionados embusteros" (véase Luces de Bohemia).

Según Valle Inclán, el esperpento intenta mostrar la realidad en un espejo distorsionante, para provocar la reflexión del espectador. Su poética esperpéntica implica una distorsión sistemática de la realidad. Ella es retratada en términos grotescos, que aluden a la decadencia, la miserabilidad y el sinsentido que el autor detecta como rasgos sobresalientes de la Restauración borbónica en España, a la que él mismo declaradamente percibe como una realidad deforme: "Valle-Inclán se fascinó por los espejos deformantes del callejón del Gato: veía a España" (Eduardo Haro Tecglen, "Esperpento", El País, N° 750, 23 de mayo de 1998).

Según el DRAE, esperpento es un "hecho grotesco o desatinado," si bien en su sentido específico, el término designa al estilo literario creado por Valle Inclán y que se caracteriza por la deformación grotesca de la realidad puesta al servicio de una implícita crítica de la sociedad española de la época. Dicho estilo teatral fue inspirado por los espejos de un bar madrileño al que Valle Inclán era asiduo. La fachada de dicho bar poseía espejos cóncavos y convexos que deformaban la figura de todo aquel que se encontrara frente a ellos. Así, la deformación exagerada de la realidad podía ser sorprendentemente desconcertante (como lo era para los transeúntes), pero además podía también ser considerada a nivel metafórico como una ejemplificadora manifestación crítico-social (delicia para un escritor rebelde como lo era Valle-Inclán).

A través de su obra esperpéntica, Valle-Inclán distorsiona la realidad para presentarnos la imagen real que se oculta tras ella. Para ello recurre a la parodia, humaniza objetos y animales, y animaliza o cosifica los humanos (personajes carentes de humanidad o presentados como marionetas). Tales características, junto a la degradación de los personajes, el abuso del contraste, la mezcla del mundo real y la pesadilla, la deformación sistemática de la realidad (caricaturizada en apariencia, pero de intención satírica y moralista) vinculan al Esperpento con lo Grotesco.


Esperpento diario: "No sé si sacarlo a pasear o si hacerme con él un sandwich."

Significados del término ESPERPENTO
1. Persona fea, ridícula o de mala apariencia: El individuo que la acompañaba era todo un esperpento.
2. Mamarracho. Cosa mal hecha.
3. Desatino, disparate.
4. (Lit) Grotesco. Género literario teatral creado por Ramón María del Valle-Inclán (escritor español de finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX) y que se caracteriza por buscar una deformación sistemática de la realidad, intensificando sus rasgos grotescos. En Luces de Bohemia, Valle-Inclán compara la estética del esperpento con el efecto en la imagen producida por un espejo deformante.[1]

CAMBALACHE
1. Lugar donde se compran y venden prendas de ocasión, generalmente de segunda mano (hispana "prendería").
2. Trueque o intercambio de cosas de poco valor.
3. Acuerdo o intercambio entre dos o más partes alcanzado de modo poco transparente.

Y en el mismo lodo, todos manoseaos.

CAMBALACHE. Tango argentino compuesto en 1934 por Enrique Santos Discépolo. Destacada pieza del grotesco criollo: "Igual que en la vidriera irrespetuosa de los cambalaches se ha mezclao la vida, y herida por un sable sin remaches, ves llorar la Biblia junto a un calefón".


Todo sigue amontonado y mezclado en la vidriera irrespetuosa de la vida

Que el mundo fue y será
una porquería, ya lo sé.
En el quinientos seis
y en el dos mil, también.
Que siempre ha habido chorros,
maquiavelos y estafaos,
contentos y amargaos,
barones y dublés.
Pero que el siglo veinte
es un despliegue
de maldá insolente,
ya no hay quien lo niegue.
Vivimos revolcaos en un merengue
y en el mismo lodo
todos manoseaos.

Hoy resulta que es lo mismo
ser derecho que traidor,
ignorante, sabio o chorro,
generoso o estafador...
¡Todo es igual!
¡Nada es mejor!
Lo mismo un burro
que un gran profesor.
No hay aplazaos ni escalafón,
los ignorantes nos han igualao.
Si uno vive en la impostura
y otro roba en su ambición,
da lo mismo que sea cura,
colchonero, rey de bastos,
caradura o polizón.

¡Qué falta de respeto,
qué atropello a la razón!
Cualquiera es un señor,
cualquiera es un ladrón...
Mezclao con Stavisky
va Don Bosco y La Mignon,
Don Chicho y Napoleón,
Carnera y San Martín...
Igual que en la vidriera
irrespetuosa
de los cambalaches
se ha mezclao la vida,
y herida por un sable sin remache
ves llorar la Biblia
junto a un calefón.

Siglo veinte, cambalache
problemático y febril...
El que no llora no mama
y el que no afana es un gil.
¡Dale, nomás...!
¡Dale, que va...!
¡Que allá en el Horno
nos vamo’a encontrar...!
No pienses más; sentate a un lao,
que ha nadie importa si naciste honrao...
Es lo mismo el que labura
noche y día como un buey,
que el que vive de las minas,
que el que mata, que el que cura,
o está fuera de la ley.





Histriónico Grotesco Criollo [2]


Esperando la carroza, Argentina, 1985
Guión de Alejandro Doria y Jacobo Langsner



Esperando la carroza 2, Argentina, 2009
Guión de Jacobo Langsner


Viveza Criolla Bien Siglo XXI



Las Nueve Reinas de la Repúbica de Weimar


Nueve reinas, Argentina, 2000
Guión y dirección de Fabián Bielinsky


Recauchutando: El Esperpento Design

Chiquitito, pero mío.

Peráte que ahora damo vuelta lo churrasco y agregamo la moyejas.

Mirá que sos fifí ché: te lo compraste ton sur ton.

Qué te parió. ¡Se me corta la ducha, vieja: cerrá la canilla, querés!

Ahora sí vieja: la complicaste, pero te quedó chiche.

Vení, ponéte a gusto nomás.

Por si por las moscas: ¿O vos no sabés la de afanos que hubo en el barrio la semana pasada?

Yo te voy a dar "ni chicha ni limonada". Acá tenés bestiún: chicha con limonada.

"El país trabaja y avanza..."

Repetá mi privacidá: el autor focalizando en la Idea Fija

Referencias
1. Cf. María Moliner: DUE; Diccionario didáctico del español. Madrid: sm, 1993; PONS, Wörterbuch für die berufliche Praxis. Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Leipzip: Ernst Klett Verlag, 2000. Fernández-López, Justo. "Esperpento", en: Diccionario de lingüística y ciencias afines | Lexikon der Linguistik unter Berücksichtigung der Nachbardisziplinen, Innsbruck: Justo Fernández López, 1999-.
2. Histriónico. Teatral, exagerado, afectado.

18.7.17

Piccinini: Bio-Grotesco Veintiunesco




Elucubrar monstruos posiblemente no sea una tarea muy difícil. Pero proveerlos de verosimilitud es otra historia.

En tiempos del Renacimiento pleno, Alberto Durero afirmó que "quienquiera que desee generar Traumwerk deber mezclarlo todo junto."[1] Por Traumwerk suele entenderse a la figura imaginaria marginal que en principio es desarrollada por el artista como una diversión caprichosa, pero que puede llegar a convertirse en un más o menos inquietante factor de distracción. En el medioevo francés era sinónomo de drôllerie y diablerie, de lo que se deduce que se trata de algo así como una travesura artística que se da a partir de un juego con lo disparatado. Dicho juego le interesó también a Durero, quien mezclándolo todo llegó a diseñar figuras que responden a este principio. Notable entre ellas es su sirena-candelabro, ejecutada en 1513.


Durero, Sirena graciosa (Leuchterweibchen), 1513

Quinientos años más tarde, el arte del Traumwerk corrobora las nociones de Durero y sigue aún vigente. Esto es verificable en las obras de Patricia Piccinini, artista australiana que produce monstruos sumamente convincentes. Ella es una experta tanto en el hiperrealismo orgánico de alto voltaje como en ciertas sofisticadas e impresionantes grotesquidades veintiunescas.


Al ser entrevistada, Piccinini alguna vez declaró que buena parte de los engendros de los que se ocupa tiene su fuente de inspiración en sus propios sueños. A ello, uno bien podría a su vez agregarle las pesadillas de la escultora, entre las que se destaca cierta entidad cárnica de la que parece emanar algo semejante al dulce de leche en tanto que todo esto es expuesto sobre un pequeño refrigerador ya a partir de 2013.

On the fridge

Innegable es el interés de Piccinini por la organicidad híbrida, cuya presencia es palpable en muchos de sus trabajos. A veces, los bichos de Piccinini parecen haberse escapado de algún laboratorio donde pudieron haber tenido lugar extrañas manipulaciones genéticas.

Piccinini, The Bottom Feeder, 2009

Proveniente acaso del linaje de los grotescos descriptos por Lomazzo,[2] la criatura encima ilustrada es una quimera que involucra la mezcla de especies que la naturaleza mantiene bien separadas. A través de ella, Piccinini transgrede deliberadamente el orden natural. Con todo, es casi imposible establecer si este caso es el resultado de una manipulación génetica o bien el desconcertante fruto de un caso de bestialismo serial. Sea como fuere, el engendro en cuestión sugiere persistentemente alguna práctica monstruosa aún indeterminada. La estructura general del bicho nos remite a las bestias, en tanto que la apariencia de su piel, blanca y pecosa, insinúa una definitiva intromisión de lo humano. Indicios análogos reaparecen en la carnosa y peluda Metaflora, trabajada por Picccinini en 2015.

Piccinini, Metaflora, 2015

Existe en no pocos trabajos de Piccinini un muy cuidadoso estudio y preparación del engendro a ser exhibido. La técnica de la obra es por lo general impecable y su efecto es a su vez perturbador. Tan fuerte es el impacto que produce que hasta suele casi involucrar a lo abyecto. Piccinini cultiva una poética de lo controvertido y lo hace hasta provocar gran curiosidad y revulsión estomacal. Digna heredera de lo postulado por Victor Hugo en su Préface de Cromwell, la musa veintiunesca celebra el encuentro de los factores antitéticos precisamente en la obra de Piccinini.

Piccinini, The Carrier

Es en dicho grotesco veintiunesco donde cierta perversidad selectiva por parte de la artista tiende a desdibujar la muy ténue frontera que separa al feismo de lo grotesco.

De carne y espina

Como amante infiel que es, lo grotesco más de una vez ha osado desafiar su propia posición en la escala de los valores estéticos y de buena gana se fue a fornicar tanto con lo sublime como con lo abyecto.[3] En efecto, por definición, lo grotesco puede ser muchísimas cosas, pero no puro o unívoco.

El feísmo ya de por sí coquetea insistentemente con la obra de Piccinini. Sin embargo, y con todo lo desagradable eimpresionante que ella pueda resultar,[4] la producción artística de Piccinini es más sofisticada, sutil y erudita que, digamos, aquellas de colegas suyos tales como Cao Hui o bien Jonathan Payne, cuya imaginería apunta específicamente a lo abyecto.

Cao Hui, Sofa, 2014

Jonahan Payne, Fleshlettes, 2015

Piccinini sorprendió al público con su La joven familia ya en 2002. La obra comprende de un grupo de criaturas híbridas, una vez más de naturaleza incierta. Postrada, la mayor de ellas es hembra, cumple la función maternal y amamanta a dos sus crías.

Piccinini, The Young Family, 2002

Se trata aparentemente de una cruza de bestia canina y ser humano. La precisión de Piccinini es extraordinaria. Sus detalles, texturas y matices son técnicamente insuperables. Testimonian un profundo conocimiento de la biología, así como también de la ingeniería genética.

El que no llora, no mama.

Visualmente muy convincentes, los engendros de Piccinini parecen comunicar la gran incertidumbre de nuestro mundo veintiunesco. En tales entidades orgánicas, los límites entre lo natural y aquello que no lo es se vuelven permeables. Los híbridos expuestos sugieren considerable anormalidad, logrando ellos atrapar al espectador por sorpresa e incluso desorientarlo.

Pero eso no es todo. Significativo en la producción de Piccinini es su original juego con lo grotesco. Y, en este sentido, reveladora es la presencia de unos infantes escultóricos que a veces ella incorpora en su obra. Así, un pequeño es esencial para darle sentido a La incredulidad de Tomás, una inquietante pieza de 2008, que incorpora en su título una insinuación grotesca de corte lúdico-blasfemo.

Piccinini, Doubting Thomas, 2008

Una muy grotesca curiosidad empírica caracteriza a La incredulidad de Tomás, quien coloca su mano prácticamente dentro de las fauces de un bestial híbrido y sorprendentemente lo hace sin ningún temor.


Es en particular con este tipo de estructura visual paradójica que Piccinini se incorpora a las filas del grotesco veintiunesco.

De un modo completamente inesperado y especialmente conectado con el asunto tecno-híbrido veintiunesco,[5] resulta ser que, en la obra de Piccinini, "ejemplar" es la actitud de los niños, quienes demuestran poseer una apertura sin precedentes para con "lo Otro": no sólo se encuentran con Ello, sino que además la pasan bien en su compañía.

The Welcome Guest, 2011

Sumamente conmovedor es el cariño que expresan los infantes al entablar amistad con las criaturas concebidas por Piccinini, que eventualmente llegan incluso a suplantar al célebre osito de peluche, tal como sucede en Indiviso, obra exhibida en su muestra Ténme cerca de tu corazón.[6]

Piccinini, Undivided, 2004

Es entonces gracias a esos "pequeños polimorfos" que Piccinini cumple todos los requisitos exigidos por lo grotesco y hasta los supera, ya que comprende incluso la ternura. Prueba irrefutable de ello es el imberbe que se quedó dormido abrazado junto a una anciana sirena en Lo largamente esperado.[7]

Piccinini, The Long Awaited, 2008




Este último trabajo podría trascender lo grotesco: es algo así como una premonitoria lección de vida y, junto a El sabor de las lágrimas de Magritte (1948), es uno de los rarísimos ejemplos representativos de la muy poco populada subcategoría de lo grotesco-sublime.

Magritte, La saveur des larmes, 1947

En los casos mencionados, lo grotesco termina por sugerir lo humano y se vuelve entonces conmovedor.


En Lo largamente esperado, el afecto de los seres dormidos que sueñan es consonante con una gran enseñanza de Goya: "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos; la fantasía abandonada de la razón produce monstruos imposibles: [mas] unida a ella es madre de las artes y origen de sus maravillas" (Capricho 43).

Mariano Akerman

Grotesco-Sublime

Notas
1. "Whoever wants to do dreamwork must mix all things together" (Ernst H. Gombrich, The Sense of Order, capítulo "The Edge of Chaos").
2. El epígrafe de Paolo Lomazzo en "Los orígenes de lo grotesco" explica que "los grotescos se veían como si hubiesen emergido del gran Caos [primigéneo, pero] puesto patas para arriba, en varios sentidos."
3. Útiles al respecto son los escritos de Shung-Liang Chao y Julia Kristeva.
4. Tácitamente, la condición artística de Piccinini puede envocar aquella propia de Jean-Paul Sartre en su pieza teatral Las manos sucias, acabada en 1948: "Yo tengo las manos sucias. Hasta los codos. Las hundí en la mierda y en la sangre." En su versión original, Les mains sales: «Moi j'ai les mains sales. Jusqu'aux coudes. Je les ai plongées dans la merde et dans le sang».
5. Oportunamente Jacqueline Millner sugirió que “Unlike Dr. Frankenstein who grew to hate his creation and suffered the consequences, Piccinini would urge us to bring an attitude of love to the products of technology…The love she appears to propose is not of the romantic, infatuated ilk–classic technophilia–but of the familial variety, with its overtones of responsibility, ethical guidance and life-long commitment” (Donna Haraway, "Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture’s Generations: Taking Care of Unexpected Country", en: The Multispecies Salon, ed. Eben Kirksey, Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 242-261; Millner es citada en p. 249; Multispices Salon II).
6. Estambul, Arter Space for Art, Hold Me Close to Your Heart, junio-agosto 2011. Texto referente a la muestra: The exhibition "Hold Me Close to Your Heart" proposes an experience, a journey to another world: one that is simultaneously unfamiliar and strangely similar to ours. Patricia Piccinini looks at what it means to be human in a world of genetic engineering and biotechnology, as well as how these technologies change the relationship between people and nature. She invites the viewer into her strange and wonderful world, populated by hybrid animals and living machines. The world she creates exists somewhere between the one we know and one that is almost upon us. However, what she imagines is neither the nightmare of a future environmental ruin nor the brave new world of perfect scientific progress. Instead she focuses on the internal, emotional lives of the new creatures that might emerge, along with questions about the kinds of relationships that might come to light alongside them. Her creatures, while strange and unsettling, are not threatening. Instead, it is their vulnerability that often comes to the fore. They plead with us to look beyond their unfamiliarity, and ask us to accept them. It is surprising how quickly we grow used to them and in this way she reminds us that this sort of thing is not as far in the future as we might think. We are surrounded by hidden genetic engineering and biotechnology in our food and our animals already. Piccinini’s world is one of questions rather than answers. She does not tell us what to think about genetic engineering, but instead asks us how we might feel when confronted by possibilities."
7. Lo tan esperado es también traducción apta par el título de este trabajo.

Terminología
Especies para-humanas
Ingeniería genética
Biomedical
Biotecnología
Bioética

Un parahuman o para-humano es un híbrido humano-bestial. Los científicos vienen desde hace tiempo realizando investigaciones sobre la combinación de genes provenientes de diferentes especies. De sus experimentos podrían resultar seres vivos híbridos que presentan características tanto humanas como zoológicas o incluso botánicas.

A visitar
Sitio oficial de Patricia Piccinini
Evolution: Detached
Australia Council for the Arts
Wikipedia
New York Times
Mythic Imagination
Parahuman
Tiernas Criaturas
Beautiful and Unsettling
ABC
20 Minutos
Artium
Dado del arte
Cuentos de terror

2.7.17

Books: Grotesqueness à gogo



Karl Rosenkranz, Aesthetics of Ugliness (1853), ed. Jason E. Hill and Vanessa R. Schwartz, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. In this key text in the history of art and aesthetics, Karl Rosenkranz shows ugliness to be the negation of beauty without being reducible to evil, materiality, or other negative terms used it's conventional condemnation. This insistence on the specificity of ugliness, and on its dynamic status as a process afflicting aesthetic canons, reflects Rosenkranz's interest in the metropolis - like Walter Benjamin, he wrote on Paris and Berlin - and his voracious collecting of caricature and popular prints. Rosenkranz, living and teaching, like Kant, in remote Königsberg, reflects on phenomena of modern urban life from a distance that results in critical illumination. The struggle with modernization and idealist aesthetics makes Aesthetics of Ugliness, published four years before Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, hugely relevant to modernist experiment as well as to the twenty-first century theoretical revival of beauty.
Translated into English for the first time, Aesthetics of Ugliness is an indispensable work for scholars and students of modern aesthetics and modernist art, literary studies and cultural theory, which fundamentally reworks conceptual understandings of what it means for a thing to be ugly.

Thomas Wright, A History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art, London: Chatto & Windus, 1875. The Illustrations Drawn and Engraved by F. W. Fairholt. I have felt some difficulty in selecting a title for the contents of the following pages, in which it was, in fact, my design to give, as far as may be done within such moderate limits, and in as popular a manner as such information can easily be imparted, a general view of the History of Comic Literature and Art. Yet the word comic seems to me hardly to express all the parts of the subject which I have sought to bring together in my book. Moreover, the field of this history is very large, and, though I have only taken as my theme one part of it, it was necessary to circumscribe even that, in some degree; and my plan, therefore, is to follow it chiefly through those branches which have contributed most towards the formation of modern comic and satiric literature and art in our own island. Thus, as the comic literature of the middle ages to a very great extent, and comic art in a considerable degree also, were founded upon, or rather arose out of, those of the Romans which had preceded them, it seemed desirable to give a comprehensive history of this branch of literature and art as it was cultivated among the peoples of antiquity. Literature and art in the middle ages presented a certain unity of general character, arising, probably, from the uniformity of the influence of the Roman element of society, modified only by its lower degree of intensity at a greater distance from the centre, and by secondary causes attendant upon it. To understand the literature of any one country in Western Europe, especially during what we may term the feudal period--and the remark applies to art equally--it is necessary to make ourselves acquainted with the whole history of literature in Western Europe during that time. The peculiarities in different countries naturally became more marked in the progress of society, and more strongly individualised; but it was not till towards the close of the feudal period that the literature of each of these different countries was becoming more entirely its own. At that period the plan I have formed restricts itself, according to the view stated above. Thus, the satirical literature of the Reformation and pictorial caricature had their cradle in Germany, and, in the earlier half of the sixteenth century, carried their influence largely into France and England; but from that time any influence of German literature on these two countries ceases. Modern satirical literature has its models in France during the sixteenth century, and the direct influence of this literature in France upon English literature continued during that and the succeeding century, but no further. Political caricature rose to importance in France in the sixteenth century, and was transplanted to Holland in the seventeenth century, and until the beginning of the eighteenth century England owed its caricature, indirectly or directly, to the French and the Dutch; but after that time a purely English school of caricature was formed, which was entirely independent of Continental caricaturists.

Wolfgang Kayser: The Grotesque in Art and Literature (1957), McGraw-Hill, 1966. The art of our own day shows a greater affinity to the grotesque than that of any other epoch. Modern novels, modern paintings and sculpture are replete with grotesque features. In this modern classic of criticism, Wolfgang Kayser traces the historical development of the grotesque from the Italian Reanissance (which originated the word "grottesco") through the "chimeric" world of the commedia dell'arte, Sturm und Drang, the age of Romanticism and nineteenth century "realism," to its modern forms in poetry, dream narration and surrealist painting. There are parts of this book that are brilliantly illuminating, but other parts are like trudging through ankle deep mud. It's not that the book is inconsistent, it's that the examples Kayser chooses are so obscure that he has to explicate them and his summaries are hazy. Sometimes I couldn't even tell why he chose the examples that he chose. But when he's talking theory or history, he can be very inspiring. An interesting book about the history and traditions of grotesque. If you don't know the literature examples, the ideas are sometimes a bit hard to follow, but the book was still very nice to read. I found Kayser's almost psychological view of the grotesque quite surprising: it seems that grotesque is grotesque only when it's new and unknown, and when you get used to it, its grotesqueness fades. Kayser's descriptions lack the comic side of grotesque almost completely, but otherwise his views felt logical and believable.

Philip Thomson: The Grotesque, Methuen, 1972. First published in 1972, this book provides a helpful overview of the grotesque and its use in a number of literary genres including novels, drama and poetry. After providing a historical summary of the term, the book discusses the various defining aspects of the grotesque and its relationship to other terms and modes of literature, such as satire, the comic and parody. The final chapter presents the functions and purpose of the grotesque in literature. This book will be a useful resource for those studying literary theory and literary works which include an element of the grotesque.

Geoffrey Galt Harpham, On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature, The Davies Group, 1982. In this comprehensive, original, and wide-ranging study, Geoffrey Galt Harpham argues that we should view the grotesque not as a marginal or aberrant form, but rather as a key to central concepts in the Western artistic tradition. With discussions of pictorial and narrative art, and readings of theoretical statements by Kant, Hegel, Ruskin and others, this book expands our concept of the grotesque, and enriches our understanding of art itself. You can practically smell the tweed coming off this book. Erudite, comprehensive, and extremely ambitious. Harpham's varying formulations of the grotesque's "essence"--the grotesque as an interval, a process, a set of traits, and a historically contradictory term--set off nicely his poststructuralist idea that the grotesque is a metaphor for art's totality itself.


Julia Kristeva, Powers on Horror: An Essay on Abjection (Pouvoirs de l’horreur, 1980), tr. Leon Roudiez, New York: Columbia UP, 1982. An excellent introduction to an aspect of contemporary French literature which has been allowed to become somewhat neglected in the current emphasis on para-philosophical modes of discourse. Kristeva is one of the leading voices in contemporary French criticism on Disgust.

John R Clark, The Modern Satiric Grotesque and Its Traditions, Kentucky UP, 1991. Thomas Mann predicted that no manner or mode in literature would be so typical or so pervasive in the twentieth century as the grotesque. Assuredly he was correct. The subjects and methods of our comic literature (and much of our other literature) are regularly disturbing and often repulsive -- no laughing matter. In this ambitious study, John R. Clark seeks to elucidate the major tactics and topics deployed in modern literary dark humor. In Part I he explores the satiric strategies of authors of the grotesque, strategies that undercut conventional usage and form: the de-basement of heroes, the denigration of language and style, the disruption of normative narrative technique, and even the debunking of authors themselves. Part II surveys major recurrent themes of grotesquerie: tedium, scatology, cannibalism, dystopia, and Armageddon or the end of the world. Clearly the literature of the grotesque is obtrusive and ugly, its effect morbid and disquieting -- and deliberately meant to be so. Grotesque literature may be unpleasant, but it is patently insightful. Indeed, as Clark shows, all of the strategies and topics employed by this literature stem from age-old and spirited traditions. Critics have complained about this grim satiric literature, asserting that it is dank, cheerless, unsavory, and negative. But such an interpretation is far too simplistic. On the contrary, as Clark demonstrates, such grotesque writing, in its power and its prevalence in the past and present, is in fact conventional, controlled, imaginative, and vigorous -- no mean achievements for any body of art.

Alain Gruber, ed., The History of Decorative Arts: The Renaissance and Mannerism in Europe, Abbeville Press, 1994.

James Luther Adams, ed., The Grotesque in Art and Literature: Theological Reflexions, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997. While there has been a growing interest in the use of grotesque imagery in art and literature, very little attention has been given to the religious and theological significance of such imagery. This fascinating book redresses that neglect by exploring the religious meaning of the grotesque and its importance as a subject for theological inquiry. Review by Justin Torres: "Standing always at the edge of society's consciousness is a group of artistic works that repel as they fascinate: the grotesque. Dismissed by the "respectable," and often condemned for their absurdity, incongruity, and perceived immorality, they nonetheless hold powerful sway in the popular imagination. Sordid pagan tales of incest and bloodletting, the medieval carnival, commedia dell'arte--these popular uprisings of the grotesque imagination reveal, through their marginalized position in the cultural scene, deep seated impulses that polite society has suppressed.
Yates surveys four major theoretical approaches to the grotesque-Wolfgang Kayser's grotesque as demonic "other," Mikhail Bahktin's edenic carnival, Geoffrey Harpham's notion of the grotesque as the process of becoming, and Ewa Kuryluk's feminist interpretation of the grotesque as an expression of subdued or oppressed "anti-worlds." Yates uses these theorists to identify major themes in grotesque art that speak to religious impulses: bafflement over the meaning of human existence; the dread of non-existence; man's ability to create; and our perception of the world as fallen.
Roger Hazelton's "The Grotesque, Theologically Considered" seems to express the central insight of this book: that the grotesque, like theology, forces us to reflect on mystery properly conceived. As Hazelton says:
"Mystery is not a synonym for residual ignorance which will be dispelled when the sciences get around to it. Neither can it simply be equated with the unknown or unknowable. ... Theology and grotesque art ... find a certain affinity in a common persuasion that mystery remains a real and radical feature of our existing in the world-something not reducible to the aims and methods of technical expertise ... thus compelling other kinds of human response and acknowledgment."
For Hazelton, the grotesque, in expressing the mystery of Being recalls to us theology's enunciation of "that abiding, confiding trust and loyalty called faith."
Also notable in this collection is Wolfgang Stechow's consideration of Hieronymus Bosch, whose Garden of Earthly Delights was placed by Spain's King Philip II at the altar of the Escorial. Bosch has long been a puzzle to art critics and the faithful alike. Praised by a Spanish monk at the time of its completion as a bold representation of man "as he is on the inside," the painting, with Dante's Inferno, ranks among the best commentaries of the grotesque nature of sin. The book also boasts an excellent examination of the gravedigger's scene from Hamlet and a previously unpublished play by Robert Penn Warren, Ballad of a Sweet Dream of Peace: A Charade for Easter.
Still, in all, The Grotesque in Art and Literature is fascinating reading: well written, insightful, synthesizing various disciplinary approaches in an attempt to gain a view of the whole subject. Moreover, the subject of the grotesque may well become one of great interest to believers in the postmodern era. As American culture itself becomes more and more grotesque, there may be much insight to gain from art and literature that stands on the cultural edge and gazes back to the center."

Timothy Hyman and Roger Malbert, Carnivalesque, London: Hayward Gallery, 2000.
Carnivalesque explores the history of humor and the grotesque imagination in Western art from the Middle Ages to the present day. It is structured around four themes: the Tumultuous Crowd, the World Turned Upside-down, the Comic Mask, and the Grotesque Body.
The book includes seventy illustrations, with essays by co-curators Timothy Hyman and Roger Malbert. Illustrations range from medieval woodcuts and misericords to drawings, paintings, and prints by Brueghel, Jacques Callot, the Tiepolos, James Gillray, and Francisco Goya. Popular imagery from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is set alongside satirical prints by Daumier, James Ensor, and Max Beckmann. Recent and contemporary works include sculpture by Louise Bourgeois and Paul McCarthy, paintings by Paula Rego and Red Grooms, and video installations by Marisa Carnesky and Leigh Bowery.

Santa Fe, SITE, Disparities & Deformations - Our Grotesque, July 2004-January 2005. Essay by Robert Storr.
ISBN-10: 0970077483
ISBN-13: 978-0970077486
Historically speaking, "grotesque" first referred to the bizarre motifs discovered in Nero's palaces in the 15th century--strange hybridities of plant, animal, and human forms. Such whimsies became fodder for Renaissance masters and later for Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, modern, and postmodern artists. For the Site Sante Fe Fifth International Biennial Exhibition, invited curator Robert Storr examines contemporary embodiments of the grotesque tradition in art, a spirit which unites formal opposites: emotional and intellectual conflicts, beauty and ugliness, delight and delirium, tragedy and comedy. Producing an art of revelatory impurities that encompasses both the wondrous and the disturbing, the grotesque has informed many of the key postmodern movements in art and culture. The Biennial brings together internationally known artists working in a wide range of media, subject matter, and conceptual and aesthetic approaches, including Louise Bourgeois, Bruce Conner, Inka Essenhigh, Tom Friedman, Ellen Gallagher, Robert Gober, Douglas Gordon, Paul McCarthy, Sigmar Polke, Susan Rothenberg, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, and Kara Walker.

Curatorial statement, by Robert Storr. The term "grotesque" is commonly used as a pejorative epithet—"How grotesque!" typically meaning how obscene, how gruesome, or how ridiculous. The word is not, however, meant in this way here. Or perhaps it would be better to say, it is not meant only in this way—some of the greatest grotesques are none of those things and some are those things and more.
Historically speaking, "grotesque," which derives from the Italian word "grotto," first referred to the strange motifs discovered when the ruins of Nero’s palaces were unearthed in the 15th century, and their heavily ornamented interiors came to light. Unlike their classical counterparts, these late Roman ornaments were characterized by surprising hybridities—bizarre fusions of plant, animal, and human forms with completely invented filigree added on. Such antique whimsies became an inspiration to Renaissance masters like Raphael and Dürer. Subsequently, the grotesque intermittently preoccupied and gave license to artists during the Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, modern, and postmodern periods. Over the centuries, the grotesque spirit has evolved into parallel traditions of widely various permutations, some figurative and others abstract, some fanciful and others nightmarish, some comic and others harrowing, some exquisite and others unapologetically vulgar.
If there is any unifying principle or spirit to the work that can be fairly as well as favorably described as "grotesque," it is that of contradiction. Grotesques body forth the world’s ambiguities and people’s ambivalences in ways that make them impossible to ignore or deny. They signal the point at which logical and emotional certainties waver, taste loses it bearings, and familiar realities warp into disorienting paradoxes. It is, in the words of the nineteenth century writer Jean Paul, a state of "soul dizziness."
If ever there was a moment when the factors that stimulate the grotesque dimensions of the imagination were in flux, this is one of them. The purpose of this exhibition, then, is to bring together a diverse group of contemporary works that in one way or another respond and give new substance to those dynamics and this broad sensibility. An international group of artists of different generations and approaches, coming from various cultural contexts and working in various mediums, will be asked to participate. In gathering this group of artists around the exhibition's theme, the aim is neither to historicize their art nor force it into a fixed or homogenous category but rather to highlight the elements of inherent, usually critical, contradiction within distinct aesthetic practices while showing that the grotesque—a quality seemingly encapsulated by one word—has many reasons for being and a nearly infinite number of guises.

Umberto Eco, ed., On Ugliness, Rizzoli, 2007. In the mold of his acclaimed History of Beauty, renowned cultural critic Umberto Eco’s On Ugliness is an exploration of the monstrous and the repellant in visual culture and the arts. What is the voyeuristic impulse behind our attraction to the gruesome and the horrible? Where does the magnetic appeal of the sordid and the scandalous come from? Is ugliness also in the eye of the beholder? Eco’s encyclopedic knowledge and captivating storytelling skills combine in this ingenious study of the Ugly, revealing that what we often shield ourselves from and shun in everyday life is what we’re most attracted to subliminally. Topics range from Milton’s Satan to Goethe’s Mephistopheles; from witchcraft and medieval torture tactics to martyrs, hermits, and penitents; from lunar births and disemboweled corpses to mythic monsters and sideshow freaks; and from Decadentism and picturesque ugliness to the tacky, kitsch, and camp, and the aesthetics of excess and vice. With abundant examples of painting and sculpture ranging from ancient Greek amphorae to Bosch, Brueghel, and Goya among others, and with quotations from the most celebrated writers and philosophers of each age, this provocative discussion explores in-depth the concepts of evil, depravity, and darkness in art and literature.

Alessandra Zamperini, Ornament and the Grotesque: Fantastical Decoration from Antiquity to Art Nouveau, Thames & Hudson, 2008. A lavish survey of the grotesque style in European painting and decoration, from Roman times to the late nineteenth century. In the fifteenth century, the ruins of Nero's Domus Aurea were discovered in Rome. The first explorers to enter the interior of this spectacular palace complex had the sensation of finding themselves in a series of grottoes, and this is why the fanciful frescoes and floor mosaics discovered there were called "grotesques." A fashionable form of ornamentation in ancient Rome, grotesques consist of loosely connected motifs, often incorporating human figures, birds, animals, and monsters, and arranged around medallions filled with painted scenes. Fifteenth-century artists such as Perugino, Signorelli, Filippino Lippi, and Mantegna copied the ancient Roman examples; the most famous use of the style was Raphael's Loggie in the Vatican Palace, which became immensely famous and influential all over Europe. This magnificently illustrated book covers the entire history of the grotesque in European art, from its Roman origins through the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century. It illuminates how grotesque decoration was transformed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into arabesque, chinoiserie, and singeries, and how it continued in the nineteenth century, leading eventually to Art Nouveau.

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (1965), Indiana UP, 2009. This classic work by the Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895—1975) examines popular humor and folk culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, especially the world of carnival, as depicted in the novels of François Rabelais. In Bakhtin's view, the spirit of laughter and irreverence prevailing at carnival time is the dominant quality of Rabelais's art. The work of both Rabelais and Bakhtin springs from an age of revolution, and each reflects a particularly open sense of the literary text. For both, carnival, with its emphasis on the earthly and the grotesque, signified the symbolic destruction of authority and official culture and the assertion of popular renewal. Bakhtin evokes carnival as a special, creative life form, with its own space and time.
Written in the Soviet Union in the 1930s at the height of the Stalin era but published there for the first time only in 1965, Bakhtin's book is both a major contribution to the poetics of the novel and a subtle condemnation of the degeneration of the Russian revolution into Stalinist orthodoxy. One of the essential texts of a theorist who is rapidly becoming a major reference in contemporary thought, Rabelais and His World is essential reading for anyone interested in problems of language and text and in cultural interpretation.
Bakhtin richly documents the range and scope of the popular-festive culture that is the hero of his book, its ancient roots, the vigorous life it enjoyed in the Middle Ages, its entry into important literature in the Renaissance, even the considerable traces of it that still survive after centuries of repression.

Cristina Acidini Luchinat, Grotesques: The Painted Ceilings at the Uffizi, Italy: Giunti, 2009. The Uffizi Gallery is one of the world's most famous museums, and is home to some of the finest works of art in Western history, but it is not only the walls that are adorned with art. This volume explores the frescoes or 'grotesques' painted on the ceilings of the Uffizi.

Harold Bloom, The Grotesque, Chelsea House, 2009. The grotesque, often defined as something fantastically distorted that attracts and repels, is a concept that has various meanings in literature. This new volume contains twenty essays that explore the role of the grotesque in such works as Candide, Frankenstein, King Lear, The Metamorphosis, and many others. Some essays have been written specifically for the series; others are excerpts of important critical analyses from selected books and journals. Introductory essay by Harold Bloom. Original essays and excerpts from published critical analyses that discuss the literary theme of the grotesque considering authors as varied as Aristophanes, Nikolai Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, and Flannery O'Connor. Index for easy reference.

Frances Connelly, ed., Modern Art and the Grotesque, Cambridge UP, 2009. Examines how the grotesque has shaped the history, practice, and theory of art in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Shung-Liang Chao, Rethinking the Concept of the Grotesque: Crashaw, Baudelaire, Magritte, Legenda, 2010. How are we to define what is grotesque, in art or literature? Since the Renaissance the term has been used for anything from the fantastic to the monstrous, and been associated with many artistic genres, from the Gothic to the danse macabre. Shun-Liang Chao's study adopts a rigorous approach by establishing contradictory physicality and the notion of metaphor as two keys to the construction of a clear identity of the grotesque. With this approach, Chao explores the imagery of Richard Crashaw, Charles Baudelaire, and Rene Magritte as individual exemplars of the grotesque in the Baroque, Romantic, and Surrealist ages, in order to suggest a lineage of this curious aesthetic and to cast light on the functions of the visual and of the verbal in evoking it.

Istvan Czachesz, The Grotesque Body in Early Christian Discourse: Hell, Scatology and Metamorphosis, Equinox, 2011. Early Christian apocryphal and conical documents present us with grotesque images of the human body, often combining the playful and humorous with the repulsive, and fearful. First to third century Christian literature was shaped by the discourse around and imagery of the human body. This study analyses how the iconography of bodily cruelty and visceral morality was produced and refined from the very start of Christian history. The sources range across Greek comedy, Roman and Jewish demonology, and metamorphosis traditions. The study reveals how these images originated, were adopted, and were shaped to the service of a doctrinally and psychologically persuasive Christian message.

Markku Salmela & Jarkko Toikkanen, eds., The Grotesque and the Unnatural, Cambria, 2011. The grotesque has provided both laymen and scholars with extreme delights for centuries: from the ornamental combining of rare motifs in antiquity to a hybridisation of structural genres in recent times; from fantastical fusions of humans and beasts to comic exaggerations of bodily aberrations and prosthetic postmodern visions. Eluding clear classification at all times, the notion has often been identified with ideas of contradiction and conflation and observed in relation to principles and categories such as estrangement (Wolfgang Kayser) and carnival (Mikhail Bakhtin), the sublime (Victor Hugo) and Victorian Gothic imagination (John Ruskin). In this context, the present volume appears as a synthesis and radical questioning of existing historical developments. The book contributes to current discussions on the grotesque in contemporary literary and cultural theory from the perspective of one specific motif: the unnatural. Quite like the grotesque, observing the unnatural (and unnaturalness) reveals a resilient strain in critical thought, and the significance of this history gradually unfolds as the volume charts the progress of its main themes from the Renaissance to the present day. While in much current talk about theory and criticism certain related notions are still posited for and against each other--what is seen as normal or natural and what is not, and what should be seen as normal or natural and what should not--the discussions in The Grotesque and the Unnatural go a long way toward founding a new vista from which to observe this beguiling opposition. The book presents a new perspective on the grotesque by considering it as a phenomenon which comes into being only through a negation of sorts, yet refusing to place it in a simple, normative pattern as nature's antithesis or expressive gesture. As the articles demonstrate, the grotesque is always in the process of subverting or surpassing something, always not being ideal or sufficient to either nature or a social rule, and this very negation affects its status as a tool of transformation or emancipation from norm: the grotesque figure does not represent any particular stage of development or natural state of being. As such, the grotesque hints at and hinges on something that exceeds habitual spheres of culture and communication but, as the book aims to show, this elusiveness of meaning gives no cause for analytic despair. By tracing the involutions of the grotesque with the unnatural in specific literary cases, the book evokes centuries of Western cultural history and ultimately focuses on two questions: How and why does the grotesque tend to negate nature, and how does it affect our understanding of what we see? The diverse materials and historical scope of The Grotesque and the Unnatural make the book, in its exceptional thematic unity, a valuable addition to the fields of literary and cultural studies.

Justin D. Edwards and Rune Graulund, Grotesque, New York: Routledge, 2013. Grotesque provides an invaluable and accessible guide to the use (and abuse) of this complex literary term. Justin D. Edwards and Rune Graulund explore the influence of the grotesque on cultural forms throughout history, with particular focus on its representation in literature, visual art and film. The book: presents a history of the literary grotesque from Classical writing to the present; examines theoretical debates around the term in their historical and cultural contexts; introduces readers to key writers and artists of the grotesque, from Homer to Rabelais, Shakespeare, Carson McCullers and David Cronenberg; analyses key terms such as disharmony, deformed and distorted bodies, misfits and freaks; explores the grotesque in relation to queer theory, post-colonialism and the carnivalesque.
Grotesque presents readers with an original and distinctive overview of this vital genre and is an essential guide for students of literature, art history and film studies.

France Connelly, The Grotesque in Western Art and Culture: The Image at Play, Cambridge UP, 2014. Establishes a fresh and expansive view of the grotesque in Western art and culture, from 1500 to the present day. Following the non-linear evolution of the grotesque, Frances S. Connelly analyzes key works, situating them within their immediate social and cultural contexts, as well as their place in the historical tradition. By taking a long historical view, the book reveals the grotesque to be a complex and continuous tradition comprising several distinct strands: the ornamental, the carnivalesque and caricatural, the traumatic and the profound. The book articulates a model for understanding the grotesque as a rupture of cultural boundaries that compromises and contradicts accepted realities. Connelly demonstrates that the grotesque is more than a style, genre or subject; it is a cultural phenomenon engaging the central concerns of the humanistic debate today. Hybrid, ambivalent and changeful, the grotesque is a shaping force in the modern era.

Ugliness: The Non-Beautiful in Art and Theory, ed. Andrei Pop and Mechtild Widrich, London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2014. Ugliness is very much alive in the history of art. From ritual invocations of mythic monsters to the scare tactics of the early twentieth-century avant-garde, from the cabinet of curiosities to the identity politics of today, the ugly has been every bit as active as the beautiful, and often much more of a reality… Why then has it been so neglected? This book seeks to remedy this oversight through both broad theoretical reflection and concrete case studies of ugliness in various historical and cultural contexts. The protagonists range from cooks to psychoanalysts, from war prostheses to plates of asparagus, on a world stage stretching from ancient Athens to Singapore today. Drawing across disciplinary and cultural boundaries, the writers illuminate why ugliness, associated over the millennia with negative categories ranging from sin and stupidity to triviality and boredom, remains central to art and cultural practice.

The Grotesque and Its Relatives
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