Transgressive Art – The Concept
As evident from the name, Transgressive Art is the one that transgresses against the basic norms or the traditionally accepted rules. In order words, Transgressive Art can be defined as a Shocking Art, developed to insult the social conservatives of one type or another. The word ‘transgressive’ has a wide meaning ranging from offenses against God, to breaching pieties and taboos, to crossing the conventional boundaries. Anthony Julius (1956), an eminent lawyer and lecturer, in his book Transgressions: The Offences of Art (2003) provides a useful typology to the Transgressions artwork, by breaking it into the following categories:
o By violating its own rule
o By breaking taboos
o By being politically resistant
Writer Jack Sergeant’s Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression was the most thorough book on the early Transgressive movement.
In 1985, American filmmaker Nick Zedd in his ‘Cinema of Transgression’ used the term ‘transgressive’ for the first time to show his association with some of the filmmakers, such as Andy Warhol (1928-87), John Waters (born 1946), and Kenneth Anger (born 1927). In the later 90s, Transgressive Art extended its boundaries from art to literature and music. Around the same time, the art form gained popularity in China too.
Bordering on Dadaism, Surrealism, and Fluxus, Transgressive Art deals with mentally abnormal levels and psychological disturbances.
The Artists & the Artworks
Transgression Art was a Visual Arts movement. The sculptures, collages, and installations, intended to upset Christian religious sensibilities are among the most infamous works of Transgressive Art. The milestones range from the French painter Edouard Manet’s (1832-83) ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’ (1862-63), to the French artist Marcel Duchamp’s (1887-1968) ‘Fountain’ (1917), to American photographer Andres Serrano’s (born 1950) ‘Piss Christ’ (1987) – depicting a crucifix in a beaker of urine, to British painter Chris Ofili’s (born 1968) multi-media painting ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’ – some parts were made of elephant dung, to English performance artist Marisa Carnesky’s ‘Jewess Tatooess’ (2000).
Several Chinese artists have also done iconic work in the field. Zhu Yu’s (born 1970) images of himself eating human fetus, Peng Yu’s (born 1974) animal killing, and Yang Zhi Chao’s (born 1963) extreme body art are some marked works in the genre. In the early 80s, the famous American Transgressive artist was Richard Kern (born 1954). He started making films which some unpopular underground actors like Nick Zedd and Lung Leg.
The famous Transgressive artists of the 90s were American writer Lisa Crystal Carver (born 1968), American Punk Rock singer and lyricist GG Allin (1956-93), French performer Costes, and American artist Dame Darcy (born 1971). These artists significantly modified the art form. They were the source of influence for other artists, such as American band Cock E.S.P., German musician Alec Empire (born 1972), American action group Crash Worship, American writer Liz Armstrong, Iraqi-American film maker Usama Alshaibi (born 1969), British artist Lennie Lee, American Noise Artist Andy Ortmann, American musician Weasel Walter and American cartoonist Peter Bagge (born 1957).