In the tutorial this week, which was about the abject based on previous research, we discussed the issue of the relationship of the sublime to the abject.
The sublime experience is a positive one and the abject is a negative one. Both invoke a heightened emotion, but in each case it is a different emotion.
Is it a matter of the body (abject) vs nature (sublime)? The abject response comes from a rejection of an aspect of the body, whereas the sublime response comes from a reaction to nature.
Near / Far
The abject response relates to something personal, something close, something we can relate our lives to. The sublime response is something we sense from a distance. We don’t feel personally connected to it so it doesn’t repulse us. A good example is war. The abject response can be related to war, to the destruction of the body. The sublime response can also be related to war, but on the grand scale, the destruction of a landscape.
Macro / Micro
Both abject and sublime cause anxiety. The abject response happens on a micro level (small, tangible objects) and the sublime response occurs on the macro scale (hurricane, earthquake, destruction).
What they do have in common, however, is that artists who use both are just trying to produce a reaction in their audience, a strong emotional response. In the sublime it is awe, in abjection it is revulsion. The overall objective is the same: some sort of high, doubt, crisis, turmoil, trauma.