The Monster

Seminar 2: The Monster

Tuesday, October 31 / 13:00 – 16:00

Knut Knaus Auditorium

What particular languages and narratives does artistic practice incite or provoke? How might one speak of artistic works that are fundamentally at odds with conventions of discourse and description? Are there unique forms of knowledge generated by artistic research that require other ways of speaking? The seminar will focus on how the materials and processes of art making generate what we may call “poetic knowledge”. In contrast to discourses based on rational thought – a making sense – poetic knowledge will be considered as being aligned with the irrational and the unnameable, and which requires methods of confusion and unlearning when approaching language and articulation. Poetic knowledge, and the fevers of poetic discourses, will be explored as offering a critical interruption and imagination onto the structures of linguistic and social ordering through a radical position of Not Knowing.

For this second seminar we will concentrate on the figure of the Monster, including questions of the grotesque and the nonhuman, states of abjectness and hybridity. The Monster will be explored as a poetical figure that relates us to experiences of horror, as well as practices of disfigurement and defacement, mutation and collage – the production of haunted form. While the Fool enabled a consideration of nonsense and stupidity as productive for poetic being, the Monster will steer us closer to questions of materiality and embodiment – or what Mikhail Bakhtin terms “the bodily lower stratum.” Within this lower region, we encounter the uncanny appearances of ghouls and goblins, demons and the demented, and more: one’s own fantasies, where reason and rationality are pulled closer to the unspeakable, or as Mary Douglas beautifully states, the “dirty” center that haunts the social order. Finally, we’ll consider a number of artists whose works show us the dynamics of monstrosity, including Mike Kelley, Thomas Hirschhorn, Marcel Dzama, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman and Sandra Vasquez de la Horra. Through their works we’ll reflect upon the poetic potential of collage, the fragment, excess, fecal matter and dirty jokes.


Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World

Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror

Jeffrey Cohen, Monster Theory

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger


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