Thursday, March 8, 2007

Waldby: Response to Science-phobic/Image-phobic/Content-phobic Somas 2

From: Catherine Waldby
Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2007 15:54:50 +1100

In response to Aguilera-Hellweg’s I don't bite and to Suzanne's Science-phobic/Image-phobic/Content-phobic Somas 2 posting regarding body anomalies.I think part of the reason these kinds of images are so difficult to witness is that they attest to the highly contingent nature of what we consider the human form - part of what is so fascinating about embryology and embryo images is the quite inhuman appearance the embryo has for such a long period of its gestation, and the fact that is looks at its earliest stages like so many other animals - so it recapitulates the finely balanced, potentially quite different evolutionary process that produced human morphology. When embryogenesis goes 'wrong', deviating from the norm, it is a too graphic reminder of the fact that we are all just one step away from monstrosity.

Catherine Waldby

to post a response, click on the "comment" button below
to return to the main page, go to www.visualcultureandbioscience.org

1 comment:

Wendy Webb said...

I would like to respond to Catherine Waldby’s comments on Aguilera-Hellweg’s, I don't bite and to Suzanne's Science-phobic/Image-phobic/Content-phobic Somas 2 posting regarding body anomalies. I think it is apropos to mention Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject. Though the abject is rooted in psychoanalysis, its application to cultural, media arts and visual studies has shed light on our relationship to images that repel and compel. In Carol Clover’s writings on gender in the modern horror film, she writes of our desire to experience/seek out/create/appropriate visual images that are repugnant, gratuitous and thrilling. It is this “thrill” and shrill aspect that is relevant to scientific/bio art imagery. Waldby comments, “I think part of the reason these kinds of images are so difficult to witness is that they attest to the highly contingent nature of what we consider the human form.” Julia Kristeva’s discussion of the female body as a cultural symbol of contempt (per memory from Barbara Creed’s Horror and the Monstrous Feminine) as it “swells, bleeds, lactates and changes shapes” speaks to our unpredictable and dependent relationship with nature which problematizes our mirage of order and “norm”. The abject describes a critical feature of the human. As Waldby puts it—“it is a too graphic reminder of the fact that we are all just one step away from monstrosity.” It seems this arena of abjection theory could be applied to the controversial images of embryology and human morphology.