Frida Kahlo: Trauma, Abjection, and Affect

Artworks: Without Hope

Frida Kahlo had grown very thin due to her lack of appetite, and as a result was prescribed a fattening diet of puréed food. Nauseated by being force-fed, Kahlo was inspired to paint Without Hope (1945) and at the back of it wrote: “Not the least hope remains to me… Everything moves in time with what the belly contains”. Included in her painting are the sun and the moon. The sun has always represented masculinity and predictability, and always rising in the morning. The moon generally represents femininity and with it emotion and sensory experience. Just like nature and culture.

As I look at the painting, I can feel her, Kahlo. What is quite a prominent element in Without Hope are the sun and the moon. The sun and the moon are obvious polarising opposites. The sun, being bigger and more obtrusive seems to be a problem, reminding Frida that every day, every few hours, she will be force fed puree of inconceivables. Her representation of disgusting food, organs, animals and skulls nauseates me, to the extent that I can hear the sloppy plop of food squeezing through food pipes and being slurped up by the victim. I smell a pungent aroma, a putrid odour. I feel stuffy as if I was surrounded in a small room suffocating, taking shallow breaths to avoid the foul stench and sticky feeling caused by the wretched decomposition of what will eventually be fed to me. Living with the trauma that has overwhelmed her, Kahlo must now tolerate being force fed what seems unidentifiable and quite unpleasant while her debilitating disease traps her, unable to do anything about it. It makes me pity her, and sickens me in another sense, that so many unfortunate things have happened to this woman. The situation seems to be without hope. When will she stop? How does she endure? It is then, that a type of envy creeps over – at the strength of this incredible woman. 

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