Radical interiors: Cindy Sherman's ‘Sex pictures’ and Kathy Acker's 'My mother: demonology'

Colby, G. 2012. Radical interiors: Cindy Sherman's ‘Sex pictures’ and Kathy Acker's 'My mother: demonology'. Women: A Cultural Review. 23 (2), pp. 182-200.

TitleRadical interiors: Cindy Sherman's ‘Sex pictures’ and Kathy Acker's 'My mother: demonology'
AuthorsColby, G.
Abstract

In 1989, the American visual artist Cindy Sherman produced her ‘Sex Pictures’, a number of photographic images of two medical mannequins whose bodies had been dismembered and reconstructed to form abstract configurations that alluded to pornographic poses. Sherman's series was a response to the National Endowment for the Arts controversy, in which American artists such as Andres Serrano and the late Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work was considered obscene by the Republican Congress, were censored. Many artists in the culture-war period had their grants rescinded. The American avant-garde writer Kathy Acker published My Mother: Demonology in 1993. A prominent concern of Acker's in the work is what she termed her ‘writing freedom’ in a climate of cultural expurgation by the Republican elite. In particular, Acker was worried that she was ‘internalizing certain censorships’. This article addresses Sherman's and Acker's work in a comparative context to explore, through the theoretical work of Julia Kristeva, the ways in which their responses to a climate of political censorship can be read as forms of intimate revolt. Kristeva's notion of ejection—the act of placing something beyond the scope of the possible—transpires as ‘a condition of art's creation’ in Sherman's and Acker's work. Acker and Sherman use the pornographic reference in their work to disrupt and dislocate the narrative and image from convention in order to de-eroticize the body, against heteronormativity's terms, and empower the female sex organs. Eversion—that is, in Sherman's and Acker's works, the act of turning the institutional and maternal body inside out—emerges as a mode of resistance to the danger of the writer and the artist internalizing cultural restrictions. The everted body creates a site of radical interiority which becomes the (impossible) site for the radical (re-)embodiment of the feminine subject.

JournalWomen: A Cultural Review
Journal citation23 (2), pp. 182-200
ISSN0957-4042
Year2012
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/09574042.2012.677236
Publication dates
Published2012

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