Merel Witteman's Aversive Aesthetics photos are designed to trigger disgust
Dutch Design Week 2014: Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Merel Witteman has created a photo series that includes images of stepping in poo and a dead rodent skewered on a fork to explore our fascination with being disgusted.
Merel Witteman's Aversive Aesthetics project features a series of images produced to provoke feelings of revulsion in the viewer.
They include a foot that has just trodden in faeces, a mouse impaled on a cooking utensil, snails creeping up the sides of a tea cup, a used sanitary towel in a pair of underwear, red liquid smeared across a woman's crotch and a finger stuck through the hole of a sticky doughnut.
Witteman created the images to comment on the fact that many people are drawn to, and are interested in, stimuli that cause them to feel disgusted.
"Aversion has a paradoxical effect: as much as we want to run away from disgusting things, we feel attracted to them as well," said Witteman.
"There is something so tantalising in the shock that we watch movies we don't want to see, sniff at things we don't want to smell and listen to stories we don't want to hear."
The images – created for her Design Academy Eindhoven graduate project – each features a slogan that tries to give a reason for the phenomenon.
"Beauty makes you look once. Disgust makes you look twice" and "Sadness brings tears. Disgust brings stories" are two examples, which evolved from Witteman's research and aim to explain the lure of such imagery in simple terms.
Witteman's research, which she has compiled into a series of books, explores how these types of aesthetics could influence the way graphics and objects are presented in the future. She asks the question: "Can disgust function as an aesthetic value?"
"The role of the designer is changing, instead of making beautiful products we are telling more and more stories," she said. "But in the way we present our stories we still use the rules of the clean and the beautiful."
"I thought that with this new role it could be interesting to look into other, unconventional ways of telling a story, and in this way enhance the experience of the public. I took a deeper look into my personal fascination: the emotion of disgust."
The photo series was on display at the Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition during last month's Dutch Design Week.