Cover image of the review

Spencer Lai: Contaminant, Figures
  • Amelia Winata

22 Jul 2017
6 Jul - 29 Jul 2017

Spencer Lai's work is part of a contemporary exploration of the grotesque that taps into the destabilising qualities of late capitalism and considers its effect upon issues of identity, including gender and sexuality. This current was picked up on by Jonathan Griffin in his 2012 essay Rudely transgressing the boundaries between the elevated and the profane, published in Tate Etc. In it, Griffin notes that while the grotesque has its origins in the fifteenth century where it placed emphasis upon bodily deformation—as well as blood, guts, and all manner of other bodily fluids—its expression in contemporary practice is logical insofar as it considers all things generally swept beneath the surface in society's desire to present a squeaky-clean façade. He writes, 'It allows us to get (at least a partial) handle on some of the most unspeakably vile and frightening categories of human experience, and it does so with humour and a sense of the absurd.' The grotesque, indeed, constitutes equal parts repulsion and attraction. As such, it is a befitting blanket term for most things that constitute a world where a television show host is the president of the United States.

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