Research Handbook on Art and Law
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Research Handbook on Art and Law

Edited by Jani McCutcheon and Fiona McGaughey

Featuring international contributions from leading and emerging scholars, this innovative Research Handbook presents a panoramic view of how law sees visual art, and how visual art sees law. It resists the conventional approach to art and law as inherently dissonant – one a discipline preoccupied with rationality, certainty and objectivity; the other a creative enterprise ensconced in the imaginary and inviting multiple, unique and subjective interpretations. Blending these two distinct disciplines, this unique Research Handbook bridges the gap between art and law.
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Chapter 22: Breaking the frame: abortion under arrest in contemporary visual art?

Natalie Linda Jones


If pictures are both ‘alive and dead,’ how can visual culture even begin to represent a difficult subject such as abortion, without engaging in some form of symbolic or abstract violence? And what impact, if any, can such aesthetic conceptualisations have on interpretations of abortion as either legally permissible or transgressive? This chapter will consider whether abortion will always remain under a form of ‘arrest’, struggling to move beyond overwhelming ‘visual negativity’ and ‘symbolic violence’ within visual art. Framing abortion as a site frequently under legal and aesthetic contestation, this question will be addressed by looking to the work of three artists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Portugal – Helen Chadwick, Aliza Shvarts and Paula Rego respectively. The intersection of aesthetic discourse and abortion law in the abortion controversy will therefore be key to rethinking the challenges that art and law can present to each other, often in surprisingly constructive ways.

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