|"The Garden of Earthly Delights"|
I still recall the shell-shocked faces of the BBC Newsnight team at the Cannes Film Festival. Kirsty Wark had been too scared to go while Mark Kermode, who had attended, self-consciously praised and defended Lars von Trier's latest film. It was the transgressive "Antichrist".
In mainstream literature think Bret Easton Ellis; in painting, Hieronymus Bosch; in TV, 'Game of Thrones'.
Transgressive art is characterised by psychological and often physical violence; visceral, graphic and explicit sex; profane language; the unleashing of the id; subversion of our safe little lives.
In science-fiction there are some notable practitioners (most transgressive first):
- Scott Bakker (Neuropath)
- William Barton (When We Were Real)
- Richard Morgan (Takeshi Kovacs novels)
- Peter Watts (The Rifters Trilogy; Blindsight & Echopraxia)
- Dan Simmons (Hyperion Cantos - Simmons just makes the cut)
I'm currently reading 'Neuropath'. It's difficult, though wholly engrossing - if you can stomach psychopathic brain-control torture, edgy relationships, dense discussion of mind, brain and consciousness.
OK, let me do it this way. Look at your most significant other: his or her smile, affectionate glance, amusing quip. Now make the the skull transparent and look again with the eyes of an MRI scanner. For every quirk of personality you love so much, there's that small net of neural tissue lighting up. That's all there is and ever has been. Meaningless.
Oh, and you too.
One of the themes of this novel is how resistant people are to even engaging with this concept. They shy away - too transgressive.