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The Biology of Revolution

The Biology of Revolution

Mapping Mutation with Diane Arbus

(p.149) 5 The Biology of Revolution
The Freak-garde
Robin Blyn
University of Minnesota Press

This chapter juxtaposes the freak photographs taken by Diane Arbus with the philosophy of Herbert Marcuse, the so-called father of the New Left. It reveals the deep engagement of the photos that were published in Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monography with the 1960s counterculture. It addresses the photographs as an attempt to find a subject innocent of the ideology of liberal capitalism, thus their preoccupation with the marginal, the abject, and the freak. It argues that while the freaks represented in the photographs remain bound to the “Establishment”, her art maps an alternative ontological condition in which differences endlessly multiply and proliferate. It relates this effect with the kind of radical desystematizing of difference identified with capitalism. It suggests that freedom from the repression of liberal capitalism lies in exploiting the decoded flows endemic to capitalism itself.

Keywords:   freak photographs, Diane Arbus, Herbert Marcuse, New Left, An Aperture Monography, establishment, capitalism

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