When we hear the words “pervert” or “perversion,” we tend to think of them in terms of sexual deviancy. As with most words, “pervert” and “perversion” can convey a variety of senses. You can pervert meaning, for example. In this sense, you’re altering the meaning of a word or phrase to fit your agenda. Or you can pervert the system, changing it to achieve your goals.
Perversion as a concept isn’t limited to sex and sexuality. It can also mean actors or behavior outside cultural norms. We’ll focus on these two meanings of the word and how they’re sometimes, but not always, interconnected.
You could argue that every art movement since the mid-to-late nineteenth century is either predicated on or incorporates some sense of perversion. If we use “perversion” is the sense of an unorthodox approach, then modern art is explicitly founded on it. Institutions dictated what constituted art—and they did so with an iron fist: you could only paint in a studio, not outdoors; you had to hide your brushstrokes; you could only depict historical or didactic scenes or imagery, and so on. Institutions dictated style and form and, to a degree, content. (more…)
Surrealism encompassed a variety of media and artists of all kinds, many of whom found a place in the Modern Art canon. Some artists, such as Dali and Magritte, produced imagery we still encounter. Melting clocks and apples obscuring faces represent the kind of imagery surrealists excelled at producing. It unsettled you, disoriented you, confused you.
Few surrealists managed to match Hans Bellmer in the ability to confound and disturb. His pieces simultaneously deconstruct and fetishize the human form, the sum of which stirs a sense of disquiet—and occasional eroticism—in the viewer. By perverting the human form, he managed to express his own tortured mind while allowing the viewers to glimpse something inside themselves—something perhaps not altogether pleasant. (more…)