“Life, Death, Growth and Decay” presented by Prophet


Session Title:

  • Germs - (Re)volting data

Presentation Title:

  • Life, Death, Growth and Decay




  • Psychologists have claimed that finding something revolting, being disgusted is evolutionarily advantageous to humans as it prevents us coming into contact with disease and contaminants. disease and contaminants. Humanities scholars have further argued that the basis for disgust is the messiness of the processes that are a necessary part of living and dying, that disgust developed not only as a way to police the boundary between “safe” and “contaminating” states but also to prevent moral and ethical decay. Some psychological experiments have been interpreted as showing that human disgust is related to our sense of being ‘other’ than animal. Ernest Becker’s suggestion that the human body reminds people of their “animal limitations”, the most basic of which is the inevitability of death.

    Experimental psychologists have tested disgust’s role in human/nonhuman animal boundary reinforcement to test the hypothesis that “cultures promote norms that help people distinguish themselves from animals” to protect humans from their concerns about mortality. This pres-entation discusses the author’s memento mori artworks, made from neuro-images produced during experiments designed to analyse brain activity during death meditation and while looking at memento mori. The process of making the works with neuroscientists is situated within an interdisciplinary feminism. Specifically, new materialism is used to consider revulsion and disgust in relation to memento mori, combining a cultural analysis of disgust and death with scientific insights about the physical and chemical processes of decay. I argue that the life seen in the putrefying and decaying corpse challenges the “historical materialist sense that the agency of matter is derivative of deliberate human activity”

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