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The Taboo of the Perverse Dying Body

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© Inter-Diciplinary Press. This is an electronic final draft version of the article whose final and definitive form has been published by Inter-Diciplinary Press.
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The Taboo of the Perverse Dying Body

A human being is continuously living towards death within a mortal body that is dying little by little, second after second. In the gloss of popular media, the taboo reality of this stain of mortality is hidden by a diversion, which is created by the multiple pornographies of visual culture: the pornography of perfect bodies and the pornography of violent death. No longer invisible or ‘unspeakable’, the taboo body has been appropriated to serve a function in the mainstream didactics. Both the lusus naturae of natural bodies and the decay of sickness and death are squeezed into such roles in the postmodern visual narrative that the mortality of the human being appears unlikely and accidental or a mere consequence of living a bad life instead of the inevitable that it is. As the popular cultural representation of the monstrous body is both marked with a stigma and marks the inferior other, its appearance in the art sphere poses a problem for the mainstream didactics in defying it with the perennial esteem shone on the works of art by their context. But in the increase of the pornography of death, we see pop art appropriating the language that now, also in the context of art, speaks of the unlikelihood of dying. Looking at Andres Serrano’s controversial The Morgue (1992) in relation to Andy Warhol’s Death and Disaster (1962-63) and Makoto Aida’s Harakiri School Girls (1999), we can trace the source of the continuously problematic imagery of death into the problematic of the dying body, marked perverse both by the popular cultural didactic of the ideal body and the visual cultural pornography of violent, unlucky death invading our screens.

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