The hybrid combination of human and animal lies at the heart of the figurative vocabulary through which Jane Alexander’s sculptural tableaux summon us into the imaginative domain of the “humanimal”—a domain where the boundaries by which religion, philosophy and science have separated men, gods and beasts are torn apart, and where the rules and conventions that ordinarily seek to impose order over our world take a tumble. Alexander’s poetic monsters eat away at the rigid polarity of “self” and “other” in colonial discourse by revisiting the ontological boundary between human and animal that during Enlightenment thought was metaphorically converted into an intrahuman distinction of insurmountable differences among diverse “races.” If her achievement is remarkable for the quiet way its terrible and horrifying content is put forward without judgment or finger-pointing, it is all the more unique in the optimism it invests in the monstrous and grotesque as “imaginative universals” of the fragile human soul.
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Research Article| November 01 2013
Postcolonial Grotesque: Jane Alexander’s Poetic Monsters
Kobena Mercer is professor of history of art and African American studies at Yale University. He writes and teaches on the visual arts of the black diaspora, examining African American, Caribbean, and black British artists in modern and contemporary art.
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Nka (2013) 2013 (33): 80–91.
Kobena Mercer; Postcolonial Grotesque: Jane Alexander’s Poetic Monsters. Nka 1 November 2013; 2013 (33): 80–91. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-2352830
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