Communication and Construction of Monstrous Embodiment
June 15-16, 2012

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cute & Creepy Exhibition in Florida

Sadly for us, all of the organisers of the Sensualising Deformity conference are based in Edinburgh, which means we cannot attend the absolutely fantastic and grotesque Cute and Creepy exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University in Tallahassee. But we can help encourage others to attend in our stead, and hope that they will bring back tales of their creepy experiences. The exhibit will be held between 14 October and 20 November of this year, so there's plenty of time yet to plan your trip; perhaps your family or friends might enjoy a trip to Disney World while you nip off for some monstrous pop surrealism?

The site's home page offers different examples of the work, or the kind of work, that will be offered at the exhibit, and based on that alone there is no question that it would be of interest to this conference and anyone reading the blog, but as if to ensure no further doubt, curator Carrie Ann Baade writes,
To see beauty in the carnivalesque or macabre, in freaks and in monsters, is a matter of aesthetics. Most of us can agree on the artistic value of a Monet or Titian but this work is for a daring audience, an audience open to exploring the strange beauty and the ecstasy inherent in our culture's aversions.
Travis Louis, The Curse of the Goat, 2006.
There is something that makes us uneasy when confronted by the weird or the unusual. Those who can appreciate both have come to anticipate and enjoy unexpected sensations. Work of this nature is not going to be an underground movement any longer: the grotesque is going mainstream.
The website also offers a tantalising excerpt of Nancy E. Hightower's essay "Revelatory Monsters: Deconstructive Hybrids, the Grotesque, and Pop Surrealism" that is included in the exhibition catalogue, which is worth quoting in full:
We need monsters in our lives.
We like to fear them, to run hiding under the covers or clenching a lover's arm until the monster is destroyed or banished to far off lands. they are wonderful like that, refusing to ever completely disappear from our lives, affording us the opportunity for self-introspection if we take a moment to recognize that monsters don’t die because they are essentially us(Cohen 5). Once they are eradicated from our cultural memory, we go, too. And that monstrous, wondrous body is at the heart of the grotesque. From the playful grotteschiunearthed in the Domus Aurea to demons of the illuminated manuscripts that overflowed from the margins onto the actual text, the monstrous body has always threatened what our culture has desired to contain (or perhaps more accurately, trapped, vetted, and fixed to incorporate whatever impossible standards it has set up to differentiate us from them). But the monstrous body is also prophetic in nature.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argues that as a “construct and a projection, the monster exists only to be read: the monstrum is etymologically ‘that which reveals’ that which warns…like a letter on the page, the monster signifies something other than itself”. What sets up this kind of fulcrum is society itself: “The too-precise laws of nature as set forth by science are gleefully violated in the freakish compilation of the monster's body. A mixed category, the monster resists any classification built on hierarchy or a merely binary opposition, demanding instead a ‘system’ allowing polyphony, mixed response (difference in sameness, repulsion in attraction), and resistance to integration…”. These kinds of juxtapositions are what form the definition of the grotesque.
Greg Simpkins, Knightengale, 2008.
Of course, with such passages accompanying the examples of art included on the home page of the site, monsterphiles who, like us, don't live anywhere near the exhibition will be working out calculations in the vain hope that a trip to Florida this autumn might be within their budget (we feel your pain). But if you happen to be so lucky as to be in Florida, or close enough for a visit, we highly recommend visiting the exhibition.

If not, perhaps you will have to do as we are doing and wistfully pass on the information to any fortune-favoured friends you might have who could attend! In the meantime, console yourself, perhaps, with a closer look at the artists involved, whose work is engaging with monstrosity in such sensational ways.

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