Transgressive art

Transgressive art is art that aims to transgress; i.e. to outrage or violate basic morals and sensibilities. The term transgressive was first used in this sense by American filmmaker Nick Zedd and his Cinema of Transgression in 1985. [1] Zedd used it to describe his legacy with underground film-makers like Paul Morrissey, John Waters, and Kenneth Anger, and the relationship they shared with Zedd and his New York City peers in the early 1980s.[2]


From an academic perspective, many traces of transgression can be found in any art which by some is considered offensive because of its shock value; from the French Salon des Refusés artists to Dada and Surrealism. Philosophers Mikhail Bakhtin and Georges Bataille have published works on the nature of transgression. Probably the most thorough book on the early transgressive movement is Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression by Jack Sargeant.

Transgressional works share some themes with art that deals with psychological dislocation and mental illness. Examples of this relationship, between social transgression and the exploration of mental states relating to illness, include many of the activities and works of the Dadaists, Surrealists, and Fluxus-related artists, such as Carolee Schneemann – and, in literature, Albert Camus's L'Etranger or J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

The movement itself wishes to wear thin the border between the profane and the sacrosanct, and to test mores and values through subjecting glory to the inverse of cultural norms. Transgressive art often reflects an undercurrent of violence within the time it is produced.

Changes in movement

Since the late 1990s a new group of transgressive artists have emerged, such as the Canadian artist Rick Gibson who made a pair of earrings out of human fetuses and ate a piece of human testicle. In China several artists became well known for producing transgressive art; including Zhu Yu, who achieved notoriety when he published images of himself eating what appeared to be a human fetus; and Yang Zhichao for extreme body art.


Perhaps the most famous transgressive artist of the early 1980s, Richard Kern began making films in New York with infamous underground actors Nick Zedd and Lung Leg. Some of them were videos for musical artists including those for the Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth. [3]

Subsequent transgressive artists of the 1990s overlapped the boundaries of literature, art, and music, most famously GG Allin, Lisa Crystal Carver, Shane Bugbee, and Costes. With these artists came a greater emphasis on life itself (or death) as art, rather than just depicting a certain mindset in film or music. They were instrumental in creating a new type of visionary art and music, and influenced artists including Alec Empire, Cock E.S.P., Crash Worship, Usama Alshaibi, Liz Armstrong, Lennie Lee, Weasel Walter, Andy Ortmann, and the later work featured in Peter Bagge's comic Hate.

Newer transgressive artists of the 2010s such as Nickk Dropkick, Joan Cornellà, Aleksandra Waliszewska, and Molg H seem to have brought about a revival of transgressive art in recent years, with some small measure of popularity.

However, the term can also be applied to transgressive literature as well. Recent examples include Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, and J.G. Ballard's short story "The Enormous Space". These works deal with issues that were considered to be outside the social norms. Their characters abuse drugs, engage in violent behaviour or could be considered sexual deviants. [4]

Trangressive writing can also be reflected in non-fiction, such as the writing style of Jim Goad.[5]

Among the most notorious works of transgressive art among the general public have been sculpture, collages, and installation art which offended Christian religious sensibilities. These include Andres Serrano's Piss Christ [6], featuring a crucifix in a beaker of urine, and Chris Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary, a multi-media painting which is partially made of elephant dung.

In music

Rock and roll music has inspired controversy for the entirety of its existence. As the music grew in popularity, some artists used controversy to make a statement, gain attention or make a profit (or a combination of these). For musical genres such as shock rock, punk rock, horrorcore and its parent genres hardcore hip hop and gangsta rap; grindcore, black metal and death metal, as well as various bands within the avant-garde rock genre, offending modern sensibilities was an integral part of their music. Musicians such as Alice Cooper, Slayer, Kiss, N.W.A, Iggy Pop, Misfits, W.A.S.P., GWAR, GG Allin, The Plasmatics, Cannibal Corpse, Tyler, The Creator, Throbbing Gristle, Marilyn Manson, Die Antwoord, Costes, The Mentors, Anal Cunt, The Sex Pistols, The Meatmen, Eminem, Brotha Lynch Hung and the Dead Kennedys used anti-Christian, anti-establishment, satirical lyrics that were generally considered to be evil by those who did not understand them. Some bands used the controversy to increase their popularity. The idea was, if people complained about their music enough and truly hated them, then the band's name and knowledge of their existence would reach the ears of people who would appreciate their music.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Shock Value: New York’s underground ‘Cinema of Transgression’-Dangerous Minds
  2. ^ Zedd, Nick (1985). "The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto". Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  3. ^ Films by Richard Kern: Program 2 | MoMA
  4. ^ Word Watch — December 1996 from The Atlantic Monthly
  5. ^ Joseph Gallivan (30 Oct 2009). "Citizen Goad". Entertainment. Portland Life. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  6. ^ Transgressive Art as a Form of Protest-Art News & Views
  7. ^ "Transcendence, Transgression, and Rock & Roll: The Music of Luxury - Christ and Pop Culture". Christ and Pop Culture. Retrieved 2017-09-09.
Andres Serrano

Andres Serrano (born August 15, 1950) is an American photographer and artist who has become famous through his photos of corpses and his use of feces and bodily fluids in his work, notably his controversial work Piss Christ, a red-tinged photograph of a crucifix submerged in a glass container of what was purported to be the artist's own urine. He is also notable for creating the artwork for the heavy metal band Metallica's Load and Reload albums.

Art movement

An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years. Art movements were especially important in modern art, when each consecutive movement was considered as a new avant-garde.

Art periods

This is a chronological list of periods in Western art history. An art period is a phase in the development of the work of an artist, groups of artists or art movement.

Black Mask Studios

Black Mask Studios is a comic book and graphic novel publishing company formed by Matt Pizzolo, Steve Niles and Brett Gurewitz, designed as a new infrastructure to support comic book creators and a new pipeline for transgressive art.

Cinema of Transgression

The Cinema of Transgression is a term coined by Nick Zedd in 1985 to describe a New York City-based underground film movement, consisting of a loose-knit group of like-minded artists using shock value and humor in their work. Key players in this movement were Zedd, Kembra Pfahler, John Waters, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Casandra Stark, Beth B, Tommy Turner, Richard Kern, and Lydia Lunch, who in the late 1970s and mid-1980s began to make very low-budget films using cheap 8 mm cameras.

Zedd outlined his philosophy on the Cinema of Transgression in "The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto", published under the name Orion Jeriko in the zine The Underground Film Bulletin (1984–90).Cinema of Transgression continues to heavily influence underground filmmakers. In 2000, the British Film Institute showed a retrospective of the movement's work introduced by those involved in the production of the original video films.

Contemporary art

Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that continue the challenging of boundaries that was already well underway in the 20th century. Diverse and eclectic, contemporary art as a whole is distinguished by the very lack of a uniform, organising principle, ideology, or "-ism". Contemporary art is part of a cultural dialogue that concerns larger contextual frameworks such as personal and cultural identity, family, community, and nationality.

In vernacular English, modern and contemporary are synonyms, resulting in some conflation of the terms modern art and contemporary art by non-specialists.

Ed Gein

Edward Theodore Gein (; August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984), also known as The Butcher of Plainfield, was an American murderer and body snatcher. His crimes, committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, gathered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. Gein confessed to killing 2 women; tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957. Gein was initially found unfit to stand trial and confined to a mental health facility. In 1968, Gein was found guilty but legally insane of the murder of Worden, and was remanded to a psychiatric institution. He died at Mendota Mental Health Institute of cancer of the liver and respiratory failure, on July 26, 1984, age 77. He is buried next to his family in the Plainfield Cemetery, in a now-unmarked grave.

Experimental music

Experimental music is a general label for any music that pushes existing boundaries and genre definitions (Anon. & n.d.(c)). Experimental compositional practice is defined broadly by exploratory sensibilites radically opposed to, and questioning of, institutionalized compositional, performing, and aesthetic conventions in music (Sun 2013). Elements of experimental music include indeterminate music, in which the composer introduces the elements of chance or unpredictability with regard to either the composition or its performance. Artists may also approach a hybrid of disparate styles or incorporate unorthodox and unique elements (Anon. & n.d.(c)).

The practice became prominent in the mid-20th century, particularly in Europe and North America. John Cage was one of the earliest composers to use the term and one of experimental music's primary innovators, utilizing indeterminacy techniques and seeking unknown outcomes. In France, as early as 1953, Pierre Schaeffer had begun using the term musique expérimentale to describe compositional activities that incorporated tape music, musique concrète, and elektronische Musik. Also, in America, a quite distinct sense of the term was used in the late 1950s to describe computer-controlled composition associated with composers such as Lejaren Hiller. Harry Partch as well as Ivor Darreg worked with other tuning scales based on the physical laws for harmonic music. For this music they both developed a group of experimental musical instruments. Musique concrète (French; literally, "concrete music"), is a form of electroacoustic music that utilises acousmatic sound as a compositional resource. Free improvisation or free music is improvised music without any rules beyond the taste or inclination of the musician(s) involved; in many cases the musicians make an active effort to avoid clichés, i.e. overt references to recognizable musical conventions or genres.

List of art movements

See Art periods for a chronological list.This is a list of art movements in alphabetical order. These terms, helpful for curricula or anthologies, evolved over time to group artists who are often loosely related. Some of these movements were defined by the members themselves, while other terms emerged decades or centuries after the periods in question.

Neck Face

Neck Face (born 1984 in Stockton, California) is an anonymous graffiti artist. He is known for his frightening drawing style and humorous writings. His works have been shown in Art Galleries around the world and much like Banksy his work appears guerrilla style on the streets.

New Gothic

Not to be confused with the Neo-Gothic architectural style.New Gothic or Neo-Gothic is a contemporary art movement that emphasizes darkness and horror.


Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface (support base). The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Painting is an important form in the visual arts, bringing in elements such as drawing, gesture (as in gestural painting), composition, narration (as in narrative art), or abstraction (as in abstract art). Paintings can be naturalistic and representational (as in a still life or landscape painting), photographic, abstract, narrative, symbolistic (as in Symbolist art), emotive (as in Expressionism), or political in nature (as in Artivism).

A portion of the history of painting in both Eastern and Western art is dominated by religious art. Examples of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery, to Biblical scenes Sistine Chapel ceiling, to scenes from the life of Buddha or other images of Eastern religious origin.

In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. The support for paintings includes such surfaces as walls, paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer, pottery, leaf, copper and concrete, and the painting may incorporate multiple other materials including sand, clay, paper, plaster, gold leaf, as well as objects.

Piss Christ

Immersion (Piss Christ) is a 1987 photograph by the American artist and photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a small glass tank of the artist's urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art's "Awards in the Visual Arts" competition, which was sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects.

The work generated a large amount of controversy based on assertions that it was blasphemous. Serrano himself said of the controversy: "I had no idea Piss Christ would get the attention it did, since I meant neither blasphemy nor offense by it. I've been a Catholic all my life, so I am a follower of Christ."

Richard Misiano-Genovese

Richard Misiano-Genovese (born 1947) is a collagist, photographer, painter, and theorist. Practitioner of Transgressive Art, and Mail Art

Misiano-Genovese is the initiator of the Altered Lithograph, Excavation Collage and Novel.

Shock art

Shock art is contemporary art that incorporates disturbing imagery, sound or scents to create a shocking experience. It is a way to disturb "smug, complacent and hypocritical" people. While the art form's proponents argue that it is "imbedded with social commentary" and critics dismiss it as "cultural pollution", it is an increasingly marketable art, described by one art critic in 2001 as "the safest kind of art that an artist can go into the business of making today". But while shock art may attract curators and make headlines, Reason magazine's 2007 review of The Art Newspaper suggested that traditional art shows continue to have more popular appeal.

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss (ISBN 0-679-43448-8) is a collection of visual art created by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. It was published in 1995, after Geisel's death, by Random House of New York.


Transgressive may mean:

Transgressive art, a name given art forms that violate perceived boundaries

Transgressive fiction, a modern style in literature

Transgressive Records, a United Kingdom-based independent record label

Transgressive (morphology), a form of verb in some languages

Transgressive phenotype, a phenotype that is more extreme than the phenotypes displayed by either of the parents

Transgressive segregation

Cinema of Transgression, film movement using shock value and humor

Underground film

An underground film is a film that is out of the mainstream either in its style, genre, or financing.

Yang Zhichao

Yang Zhichao (traditional Chinese: 楊志超, simplified Chinese: 杨志超, pinyin: Yáng Zhìchāo; born 1963) is a performance artist living and working in Beijing.

Yang was born in Gansu. After graduating from the Northern Manchuria Art College, Northwest Normal University in 1986, he started as a painter but moved into producing performance art. In 1998 Yang Zhichao moved to Beijing.

He attempts to raise social issues through his performances and has achieved notoriety through extreme actions such as branding his ID number on his body, planting grass on his back, and surgically implanting objects in his leg and stomach. His work is concerned with the body, and how, in an age of science and technology, our bodies no longer belong to ourselves but to society and the state.

He has exhibited both in China and abroad, including the famous "Fuck Off" show at the Eastlink Gallery, Shanghai, the Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, 2003, the Dadao Live Art Festival, Beijing, 2004, and a tour of eight major institutions in the UK organised by Beijing-based curator Shu Yang in 2006.

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