The aim of the research for this project is to find and synthesise relevant information regarding the background and the development of this newly evolving species, the lycanthropus erythematosus, in the fields of immunology, clinical pathology, philosophy, cultural history, literature and mythology.
The two parts of the project presented in this exposition are dealing with the subject on a pictorial and poetical level; they show the outcomes of the artistic research and the development of the thesis of the lycantrhopus erythematosus by means of collage, animation, poetry and free association.
In her analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo Mary Douglas makes aware of the danger that lies in transitional states "simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is undefinable. The person who must pass from one to another is himself in danger and emanates danger to others." (Douglas, 1966/2003, p. 97)1 Douglas also emphasises the special energy in society's "margins and unstructured areas" (ib., p. 115), but she warns: "All margins are dangerous" (ib., p. 122).
The series of collages titles Autoimmune Transformations reflects the properties of such a transitional state and the specific energy unleashed by transformative processes. The shown images and animations are created in the tradition of the grotesque, dealing with the deviant body with means of distortion, alienation, and, last not least, stultification (in reference to the carnival as the "lived grotesque", as Michael Bachtin2 pointed out).
The collages also reflect the key processes of autoimmunity: ELIMINATION (deletion, extinction) — LYSIS (dissolution, liquidation) — PHAGOCYTOSIS (assimilation, incorporation).
In her essay "Power of Horrors"3 Julia Kristeva locates the language of literature "on the fragile border (borderline cases) where identities (subject/object, etc.) do not exist or only barely so — double, fuzzy, heterogeneous, animal, metamorphosed, altered, abject" (1982, p. 207). She points out that especially poetry provides the means to express "boderline cases", processes of transition, because it is "a language of want, of the fear that edges up to it and runs along its edges" (1982, p. 38).
The here presented Autotoimmune Poetry relies on these special qualities of the poetic language. It comprises a collection of "autoimmune poems" revealing a lyrical, language based method of analysing the collected materials in the course of research. The results are contingent on the dynamics between letters, and the unforeseeable synergies produced by new (free) combinations of syllables, words, and fragments of sentences.
The autoimmune poetry series was generated by employing a computer algorithm that allowed me to randomly confront words or combinations of words from different text sources following different patterns of how the words were selected and combined. I used passages from medical papers on autoimmunity, SLE and the immune system, from patient guides and information booklets, and I used lines from self written poems. The results were then edited, following the demands of the words and the emerging of new meanings.
I present these findings as a person affected by the disease SLE, but also as an artist, scientist and writer. I treat myself as a specimen, and at the same time I am the researcher, so in this regard I follow an anthropological tradition called "autoethnography":
Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience; it challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just, socially conscious act. […] Thus, as a method, autoethnography is both process and product.4
The process-product-concurrency of this method applies very well for my way of proceeding in research — and for the strategies I employed to document, analyse and interpret the research results.
Noël Carroll explains in his "General Theory of Horrific Appeal"5 that "things that violate our conceptual scheme, by (for example) being interstitial, are things that we are prone to find disturbing"(p. 7). He describes the monster as an impossible being, a "being that violates, defies, or problematizes standing cultural classifications."
Carroll states: "The impossible being does disgust" — but he also adds "that disgust is required for the pleasure involved in engaging our curiosity in the unknown and drawing it into the processes of revelation, ratiocination, etc." (ib., p. 9).
So the monster is more than a repulsive figure — it can be made productive for the search of new meanings — and probably even for solving a cruel mystery as it is hidden in the secret proceedings of autoimmunity.
Final Remark: Ich bin das sinnierende Monster!6
Next Page: Musing Monster