Frida Kahlo and the Abject
The boundaries are blurred between the corpse and the living being which is a condition of abjection where it is impossible to maintain balance and therefore creates a site for desire and danger. This, in turn, creates tension gained by a lack of boundaries, for instance language cannot convey an abjection the way that Kahlo’s imagery does, forcing the viewer’s eye to break away from the display of suffering and terror. One of many examples is presented in Without Hope where food loathing encourages nausea felt by Kahlo at the time and by the affected viewers. The disgusting food, animals and skulls are suspended above her by the wooden structure used to hold her canvasses for painting while she was bedridden. Her arms seem held down underneath her, leaving the viewer feeling uneasy, anxious, helpless, scared and claustrophobic.
Kahlo’s recreation of the abject shows a display of filth, defilement and the disruption of the consistency of the self. The internal organs depicted in her work evoke repulsion and disgust; this display of her anatomy allows the viewer to experience abjection which is perceived as a threat and is therefore rejected. Bodily fluids and blood stain and contrast the white veils normally used to cover a body part which creates a sadistic impression; this grotesque representation, according to Alonso, can be read as a: “… transgression of a prohibition”. According to René Girard, violence – as infectious – is a necessary condition to cure a community, for instance when viewers are confronted with the horrendous events depicted in an artwork, they realise that their own life is not as unfortunate as what they once thought. In this way, Kahlo and the viewer employs the Aristotelian theory of cleansing the body and soul by way of filth. Kahlo’s body and the visual abject she portrays is tragic and has a dramatic impact on the viewer; they are affected in the same way Kahlo was affected, in that the viewer embodies Kahlo’s trauma.