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Figure 1

Wrought Triptych, copyright Joel Penner and Anna Sigrithur, 2018

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Figure 2


Wrought Excerpt, copyright Joel Penner and Anna Sigrithur, 2018

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These still images and video are excerpts from the short film Wrought (2018). The film’s title comes from the past participle of the verb to wreak, evoking the ideas of transformation and disgust which are central to the film. Wrought uses timelapse scanner videography to capture macroscopic views of organic materials in animated states of decay. The film proposes that “rot/wrought” encompass three categories of decay: to spoil, to ferment, and to decompose. These categories each deal uniquely with the abject, or the horror caused by the loss of distinction between self and other.[1] Food as subject matter can be seen as the civilized ‘self,’ separated from the ‘other’ which is seen as a kind of primordial nature and depicted as feminine, unruly and monstrous.[2] In rot, microbes and agents of decay threaten to make monsters out of everyday materials. In making this film, we aim to follow the lead of many feminist artists (Cindy Sherman, Barbara Creed and Sarah Lucas to name a few) who have challenged the classical renderings of women’s bodies as “pure” by deliberately depicting bodily parts and functions which society deems abject.

These transformations are distinguished by the way they move toward integration or abjection: Spoiling happens when food rots in a way we do not desire. Fermentation we define as food rotting in a way we do desire. Decomposition is when rot happens to something that is not food and therefore we have no emotional reaction to it. In Wrought, the spoiling of food symbolizes death and other abject changes to the body (puberty, menstruation) — funky smells, unpleasant textures and unsightly excretions. Fermentation is the acceptable feminine: a kind of rot that escapes abjection narrowly by instead becoming objectified for its aesthetic value — and even then only until it becomes too fermented. Finally, decomposition cannot become more or less horrifying because it is already undead — the primordial space before separation of self and other.[3] By using these simplified categories we attempt to answer the question, “can displaying rot in a context of beauty and/or art help the viewer challenge their own sense of loathing toward the abject wherever it is found?”