Beauty and the abattoir: viewing industrial slaughter through the lens of beauty
AffiliationSchool of Art
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2014 Georgie Mattingley
Working primarily with photography throughout a two-year self-initiated residency and work placement in a local Melbourne abattoir, my research explores the potential for beauty to lend greater visibility and value to events and processes that are regularly concealed or segregated from social life. Beauty is deployed in photographic works of abattoir workers and meat as a means to unveil and question the relationship between visual aesthetics, social visibility and moral acceptability. By subverting dominant ideals relating to beauty, I attempt to visualise a more complex appreciation for the physicality of labour, human relationships and animal lives within the dehumanising space of an industrial slaughterhouse. This written dissertation will contextualise these creative works alongside the work of other artists such as Richard Mosse, Diane Arbus, Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Santiago Sierra. Through analysing a number of art works that give representation to the undercurrent of dirt, death, suffering and violence within human life, I reveal how my own work contributes to and deepens the link between beauty, value and moral understanding in contemporary art. The writing of Susan Sontag further informs a discussion of the ethics surrounding aesthetic representations of suffering, from the concurrence of torture and salvation in iconic religious imagery, to more recent photographic documentations of war. Drawing upon compositional techniques and aesthetics from the history of painting, I analyse the use of beauty as a strategy that encourages looking throughout historical and contemporary contexts.
Keywordsvisual art; abattoir; beauty; slaughter; ethics
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