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Uelsmann is noted for his peculiar photomontages, whose centrepiece is the grotesque body. Nevertheless, no critic has endeavoured to carry out an in-depth discussion of his grotesque images. Uelsmann’s works feature a sort of earth-type or genesis quality, and therefore his grotesque bodily images often merge with natural elements to suggest the natural cycle of life. This situation allows the grotesque body in Uelsmann’s works to be invested with Bakhtin’s notion of “grotesque realism.” “Grotesque realism” celebrates carnivalesque “degradation”: all that is high descends into the womb of the earth in order to be reborn into a cosmic and universal body. Hence, “a pregnant and regenerating death.” The Bakhtinian grotesque body recurs in Uelsmann’s photomontages. Such a grotesque body, Bakhtin stresses, is of dynamic and relative nature, as opposed to the official, classical aesthetics of the absolute, finished, and static. In fact, in the 1960s, Uelsmann began to engage himself in “post-visualization,” an aesthetics of continual becoming that challenged the then dominant, official aesthetics of “pre-visualization,” propagated by Ansel Adams to create a world of the Newtonian absolutes. Iconographically and aesthetically, then, Uelsmann’s grotesque bodily images speak to Bakhtin’s concept of “grotesque realism.” This paper will be divided into two parts: I will first formulate Bakhtin’s notion of the grotesque as the theoretical framework and then move on to elucidate how the Bakhtinian grotesque manifests itself in Uelsmann’s photomontages. Through the two-part analysis, this paper will illuminate the nature of Uelsmann’s grotesque images as well as illustrate twentieth-century grotesquerie for Bakhtin’s theory of the grotesque—grounded on Renaissance literature.

KEYWORDS: grotesque, degradation, death-renewal-fertility, carnival, (mother) earth 

摘 要

美國攝影家尤斯曼的作品以蒙太奇影像著稱,而詭態身 體乃位居其蒙太奇影像中的核心。然而,至今尚未有文章專 論尤式作品中的詭態影像。尤式作品帶有強烈太初(genesis) 與土地特色,因此其詭態身體意象常跟大地與山川等自然元 素結合以表達生命的起源與能量。尤式作品的詭態身體因而 跟巴氏的「詭態寫實主義」產生連結。此主義讚揚嘉年華式 「賤下」(degradation):所有在上位的(有形與無形皆然) 被破壞貶低跟大地或自然(之母)結合以重生成「廣袤無垠 的」身體。此種「朽孕同體、生死合一」的身體乃是一種變 動不居、二元混融的身體,迥異於官方、古典美學所呈現之 封閉、乾淨、不變的身體。尤式的攝影蒙太奇所要顛覆的即 是一種封閉、乾淨的美學:亞當斯(Ansel Adams)等人提倡 的「預視化」(pre-visualization)攝影法主導二次戰後美國的 攝影界,致力呈現猶如牛頓宇宙般的絕對質(absolutes)世 界。尤式影像的產生則是透過組合曬印法使不同時空的異質 元素,不論是有機或無機、天然或人造,相互滲透形成一個 眾聲喧嘩、變動不居的世界。因此從圖像學(iconography) 與美學理念的角度出發,本文嘗試以巴氏的詭態理論閱讀尤 式的詭態身體圖像。其目的有二:為解讀尤式核心作品中的 詭態影像以幫助觀者能更深入瞭解尤式作品的真諦;達成此 目的同時也可為巴赫汀的詭態理論——奠基於文藝復興文學作品——提供一個二十世紀的視覺詭態實例。