School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    No gods and no master-printers: Postwar communal self-printing in Melbourne
    Perin, Victoria Rebecca ( 2023-06)
    Existing international print scholarship is shaped by the dominant master-printer framework. This has made it difficult to judge Melbourne’s printmakers against their international peers. Prints made by Melbourne artists looked nothing like these large, professionally crafted images. Characteristically small and handwrought, prints made in Melbourne were largely self-printed by the artists with little technical assistance. To critique Melbourne printmaking on its strengths (and not the standards of distant art-centres), this thesis posits new critical frameworks that uncover a submerged tradition of amateur and communal self-printing. With a ‘group biography’ structure (examining artists as disparate as Harry Rosengrave, Barbara Brash, Tay Kok Wee, Bea Maddock, Ian Burn, Robert Rooney and Jas H. Duke), this investigation makes an original contribution to local and transnational scholarship on the popularity and influence of printmaking after WWII.
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    Rational fictions: Hollis Frampton's Magellan and the atlas of film
    Fielke, Giles Simon ( 2019)
    This thesis analyses three films by Hollis Frampton (1936-1984): Magellan (1964–1984), Palindrome, (1969), and Zorns Lemma (1970). I argue that Frampton sought to organise knowledge on film by recuperating the atlas—a highly selective tableau of images arranged spatially—as a model to promote film as a form of cultural memory in contrast to history. It begins with an examination of these themes in Frampton’s writing, following his conceptualisation of what he called ‘the infinite film’ and ‘the infinite cinema’ in his 1971 essay “For a Metahistory of Film: Commonplace Notes and Hypotheses” and the subsequent essay “Digressions on the Photographic Agony,” from 1972. After an analysis of how his unfinished, 36-hour-long film-cycle titled Magellan developed from this model, I argue that Zorns Lemma (1970) can be re-framed as an experiment in “filmnemonics”. This latter film left Frampton unsatisfied, however, due to the way in which it emphasised photography’s subordination to traditional systems of inscription, both alphabetical and numerical, in the highly determined matrix of the film frame. Finally, I argue that Frampton recognised that his earlier film, Palindrome (1969), was the experiment most appropriate for realising the model of the atlas of film. Frampton’s decision to include Palindrome within the Magellan cycle is proof not only of the importance of that film and its significance for understanding the complexity of the long, calendrical film cycle as a whole, but also of his shift to a topological model of film. Central to the thesis is the idea of conflation as a means to link memory with formal attempts at thinking in images, as demonstrated by Frampton’s work, addressing how he strove to accommodate film in its complexity while also providing a path through its infinity.
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    Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: spatial environments and experiments in sound
    Trajkoski, Aneta ( 2018)
    This thesis is the first scholarly monograph that comprehensively examines the work of contemporary Canadian artists Janet Cardiff (b. 1957) and George Bures Miller (b. 1960). It provides a detailed account of their sound and media installations, audio walks, and video walks between the late 1980s and 2014. This thesis asks: how may Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s artworks be investigated and understood as sound installations? The significant focus of my research is Cardiff and Miller’s emphasis on recorded sound, media, and experimentation that has defined their works since the late 1980s. I emphasize that sound design (the mixing, layering, and editing of sound) was pivotal to Cardiff and Miller creating their self-described “spatial environments.” These methods and technologies enabled Cardiff and Miller to confront and redefine existing trajectories of sound, video, and installation art within contemporary art. This in-depth study of Cardiff and Miller’s artwork contributes to the discursive category of sound and video installation. The wider contribution of this thesis to the field is to develop and explain how sound is exhibited and encountered as contemporary art.
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    From diplomacy to diffusion: the Macartney mission and its impact on the understanding of Chinese art, aesthetics, and culture in Great Britain, 1793-1859
    Blakley, Kara Lindsey ( 2018)
    Recent art historical scholarship has begun to expand with studies in cross-cultural convergences and transferences garnering newfound attention. This dissertation, through a series of close readings, examines how the deterioration in the relationship between China and Britain manifests in art. In particular, I am concerned with the corollary concepts of depiction and diffusion: that is, how do British artists depict China and the Chinese, and then, how do these depictions diffuse into British visual and material culture more broadly? The primary temporal focus begins with the Macartney diplomatic embassy of 1793, and ends with Victoria’s accession. Through a semiotic interpretation, I demonstrate that the subtle changes in the British visual depiction of recurring Chinese signs (such as the pagoda or ladies of rank) reveal concomitant shifts in attitudes towards China. The concepts of depiction and diffusion comprise the first and second halves, respectively. Chapter Two examines the visual templates that the Jesuit missionaries based at the Beijing court created. Chapters Three and Four center on the imagery of William Alexander, who served as junior artist to the Macartney mission. His two illustrated travelogues (published 1805 and 1814) synthesized signifiers of China that had circulated in Britain for over a century, but his reinterpretation, in addition to his anthropological approach, anticipate an imperialistic turn. His images—which, notably, departed from the the fantastical chinoiserie which predated them— purported to demonstrate to armchair-travelers the way China ‘looked,’ but it is this very claim to authenticity which requires that the images be read anew through a postcolonial lens. Alexander’s images inform the work of Thomas Allom, who created entirely new Chinese scenes in the wake of the Opium Wars; this is taken up in Chapter Five. Chapters Six and Seven seeks to understand the diffusion of Chinese imagery in Britain, and what the cultural signification of that diffusion is. Chapter Six discusses the role of the anglo- chinois garden in eighteenth-century Britain. It also examines the role that William Chambers played in popularizing Chinese motifs, and how his legacy and contribution to an emerging Romantic aesthetic has been obscured in previous literature. Chapter Seven details the interior design scheme of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton (decorated 1802-1823). In the Music Room, Alexander’s documentary imagery has been transformed into decorative spectacle, and pagodas were miniaturized, trivialized, and brought inside: in this regard, Britain sought to possess China by proxy. By interpreting Britain’s Chinese imagery through a semiotic framework, I examine how artists and audiences negotiated increasing contact with China. Evocations of familiar signs belie a deteriorating relationship, which was hastened by Britain’s rapid industrialization and the unabating desire for Chinese goods. As art history embarks on an intercultural turn, connections between China and Britain in the early modern, proto-global world must be included in this field. This dissertation serves as one such point of departure.
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    Exquisite joy, exquisite privilege: the unrealised Great War memorial designs of Australian architect William Lucas
    Williams, Katharine Emily ( 2017)
    This thesis is the first sustained scholarly examination of the unrealised Great War memorial designs of the Australian architect William Lucas. Its thorough examination of previously unstudied research material enables a detailed evaluation of Lucas’ intellectual and aesthetic outlook, and the way in which this manifested in his war memorial designs for Melbourne and Villers-Bretonneux. During his time practising in South Africa, Lucas was exposed to an Imperially nuanced revival of classical form, a lesson which consolidated his own first-hand experience of classical architecture, which he had gained in a journey to the Mediterranean in 1908. His own experience as a non-combatant YMCA volunteer during the Boer War, meanwhile, fostered and amplified his belief that war had spiritual value. It enabled an essentially distant view of war as a scene played out within a spectacular landscape. This vision was echoed in scenic terms by the accounts his son Norman sent home from the Dardanelles and Macedonia during the Great War. Dying of wounds in 1916, Norman fulfilled Lucas’ own firm conception of Christian manhood, proving his belief that a just war had spiritual value by facilitating opportunities for self-sacrifice. For his own Great War memorial designs, Lucas continued to look to classicism, but applied it within the parameters of his own spiritual and aesthetic outlook. His design for a war memorial for Melbourne took the form of a semicircular ancient theatre, inspired by the structures he had seen in the Mediterranean in 1908. Lucas intended the theatre form as a symbol of democracy: an open-air gathering place for sacred military, civic and spiritual ritual. His design for the Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France, employed classical form to create the aesthetic of an ancient ruin. To convey this aesthetic, Lucas looked to the principles of the sublime as expounded by John Ruskin, and harnessed the symbolic potential of the ever-changeable sky. Both designs drew on Lucas’ own spiritual convictions. Lucas’ memorial designs were expressions of his own interwoven beliefs in the superiority and righteousness of the British Empire, his faith in his God, the romantic possibilities of landscape and form, and his own conviction of the righteousness of a just war. But what was missing from his mindset was the insight necessary to address the problematic and poignant absence of the dead. His own grief at the loss of his son was touched with his own unshakeable religious convictions, and a belief in the righteousness of the British Empire. As such, his memorial designs were essays in an architectural and ideological vocabulary which would become defunct in the decades following the Great War.
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    [Re]framing the f word: The case for the collection and exhibition of art forgery in Australia
    Strong, Felicity Kate ( 2016)
    The perception of art forgery as incompatible with legitimate art historical enquiry has been revised in recent years, as scholars have begun to re-evaluate the significance of the inauthentic art object and its creator. Previous art historical consideration of the subject has been largely reactive, a response to attribution questions, rather than viewing the subject as one worthy of study in its own right. While an uneasy relationship exists between forgery and the broader art world, the dominance of popular culture and media myths of the ‘hero forger’ point to the necessity of further art historical attention to assist in defining the topic and clarifying the issues for the general public. This dissertation is divided into three sections: the first examines the development of literature on the subject of art forgery, noting where and why it has been considered by other disciplines. It explores the traditional approach to the topic, in which art historians have tended to document art forgery as “a series of isolated cases”, rather than as a holistic area of study. The second part examines the development of a mythology of the art forger, which has emerged from the growing number of forgers’ biographies and memoirs that became popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. This mythology is also evident in popular culture representations and informs the ways in which the media report on the issues surrounding forgery, and underpins the references to art forgery that occasionally appear in marketing and public relation campaigns. The final part of the thesis examines the way in which international cultural institutions have used art historical tools such as cataloguing, collection and exhibition, as an educative tool; a recent touring exhibition titled Intent to Deceive is used as a case study to assess the effectiveness of its pedagogical aim. By tracing art forgery’s emergence as a subject of academic scholarship, this dissertation argues that the proactive study, collecting, cataloguing and exhibition of inauthentic objects is an important strategy to counter the often-contradictory and fictionalised narratives surrounding art forgery. Ultimately, it is argued that Australia has trailed behind the international trend of considering art forgery as an important subject worthy of closer examination and art historical enquiry.
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    Centre Five sculptors: the formation of an alternative professional avant-garde
    Eckett, Jane ( 2016)
    This thesis examines the previously unknown origins of Centre Five, a group of mainly émigré sculptors influential in Melbourne in the 1950s and 1960s, who are widely regarded as having played a key role in the advancement of modernist sculpture in Australia. In part a group biography of the seven sculptors, the thesis examines their little-known backgrounds in order to establish the roots of the group’s collective philosophy, particularly with regards to the integration of sculpture and architecture. Five of the sculptors – Vincas Jomantas (1922-2001), Julius Kane (1921-62), Inge King (1915-2016), Clifford Last (1918-91) and Teisutis Zikaras (1922-91) – were European born, trained and nurtured amidst various cosmopolitan modernities that emerged in Britain, Germany, Hungary and Lithuania between and during the two world wars. The two Australian-born members – Lenton Parr (1924-2003) and Norma Redpath (1928-2013) – derived their outlook from European models and would later live and work in Britain and Italy respectively. As such, this thesis is less a study of Australian sculpture than it is a study of European sculpture directly before, during and after World War Two. In 1953 Kane, King, Last and Redpath began exhibiting together in Melbourne as the Group of Four; later, in 1961, they joined with the other three sculptors to form Centre Five. However, I focus on the years 1935 to 1952, ending just before the group began to coalesce – at which point they effectively enter Australian art history. The thesis departs from most other studies of wartime and post-war modernist art in placing less emphasis on traumatic rupture than on strategies of survival and the adaptation of earlier modernist agendas. Specifically I argue that the émigré sculptors practiced a form of ‘alternative professionalism’, meaning they deployed the strategies of professionalism for anti-academic and essentially avant-garde purposes. They had a concise program of goals, made concerted overtures to architects, and regularly proselytized to the public and the press on the subject of abstract modern sculpture – particularly as it related to the urban and built environment – and, as such, constituted an identifiably cohesive local avant-garde. Tracing inter-tangled transnational histories of exchange between diverse modernities – peripheral and central – the thesis complicates existing Australian, British, German and Lithuanian nationalist art histories and contributes to an ongoing alternative modernities project. It also demonstrates the inadequacies of the old model of Australian art lagging provincially behind that of Europe and North America. Influences do not simply diffuse radially from centre to periphery, but rather occur simultaneously in multiple locales, in different guises. Similarly, the so-called ‘call to order’ of the 1930s is shown to reoccur after WWII, particularly in French-occupied Germany, reflecting a recurrent cyclical pattern of modernist art – looking backwards and looking forwards – rather than the persistent teleological model of canon formation.
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    Circuits, computers, cassettes, correspondence: the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre 1976 - 1984
    Fliedner, Kelly ( 2016)
    This thesis examines the production and presentation of experimental music, art, performance and installation by a group of musicians, visual artists, writers, performers and film makers who were involved in the activities taking place at the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, Melbourne from 1976 until 1984. This thesis will investigate the musical influence of the generation of practitioners who founded the Clifton Hill and taught at the La Trobe University Music Department. It will examine their influence upon the younger generation, with focus on the close relationships both generations had with the broader music and visual art scenes of Melbourne and Australia. This thesis traces a transitional moment in artistic production between the older and younger generations, which was an illustration of the broader shift in Australian artistic culture from modernism to postmodernism. I will document the artistic work of a younger generation at the Music Centre as a symptom of a new postmodern mode of engagement in order to determine what place the Clifton Hill occupies within a history of emergent postmodern theories in Australian art.
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    Swirls of shouts and rivers of shapes: futurism's crowd
    Nielfi, Antonino ( 2016)
    This thesis sheds new light on the representation of crowds in paintings, drawings and illustrations by Italian futurist artists produced between 1900 and 1915. By focusing on the aesthetic and emotional responses of the Italian avant-gardist group to the urban multitudes, it proposes a new interpretation of how the Futurists conceived of the relationship between artist and crowd. Contrary to a tendency in recent scholarly literature to read Futurism's depictions of the crowd as constructing a political collective to be moulded in a manner akin to a proto-fascist vision of society, this thesis shows how in its early years the Italian artistic avant-garde elaborated a view of the crowd which resists such politically instrumental interpretations. Between 1910 and 1912 the Futurists artists, drawing upon attitudes to the crowd they had developed prior to joining the avant-garde movement, interpreted the spontaneous gatherings of the urban multitude as a startling visual phenomenon and as an expanded collective subject endowed with emotion. In such works, the futurist artists demonstrated their intention to implicate the viewer not in a collective action directed towards specific political goals, but rather in an intensely emotional, aesthetic experience. In 1914 and 1915, the Futurists turned their attention to mass gatherings associated with patriotic and interventionist campaigns in which the artists themselves were directly involved. In spite of their more explicitly political subject matter, in the artworks made during this period the Futurists were primarily concerned with depicting the crowd as a dynamic, heterogeneous context with which the artist was to merge and into which he disappeared. In both periods, this thesis argues, the Futurists did not envision the crowd in their visual works as a mouldable mass to be dominated and controlled by a political or artistic leader, but rather as an uncontrollable, immersive event in which the artist and viewer participated to the point of self-annulment and dispersion. Despite the rallying cries in the founding manifesto of 1909 and the various political views of the artists themselves in the period under analysis, futurist artistic depictions of the crowd between 1910 and 1915 were alternative to a proto-fascist imagery of political exhortation.
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    Anatomy of a workshop: the Procaccini family in Milan
    LO CONTE, ANGELO ( 2016)
    Contextualized in Milan between the end of the 16th and the start of the 17th century, this study investigates the artistic trajectory of the three Procaccini brothers: Camillo (1561-1629), Carlo Antonio (1571-1631) and Giulio Cesare (1574-1625), one of the most important families of painters of the early Italian Seicento. Descending from an Emilian background, the Procaccini influenced the evolution of Lombard art, establishing a famous workshop in Milan and playing a fundamental role in the artistic renovation of the Borromean era, one of the most fascinating periods in Milanese art history. Procaccini’s work is here analysed under the reciprocal perspective of the family workshop, inter-connecting their individual careers and understanding their success as the combination of mutual artistic choices, high level of specialization and precise business organization. In doing so this study revises and updates the modern scholarly literature, which has generally focused on the Procaccini’s individual careers, underestimating both their connections as family members and the importance of their workshop as the key locus of artistic growth and stylistic innovation. Predicated on a micro-sociological approach aimed at understanding the social and eco-nomic conditions under which Procaccini’s art was created, the study is organized according to a chronological framework that retraces the conceptualization, establishment and evolution of their family workshop. Starting from Camillo, Carlo Antonio and Giulio Cesare’s biographies as drawn in 1678 by the Bolognese art historian Carlo Cesare Malvasia, it unravels the Procaccini’s business strategy, highlighting their mutual effort in becoming the most important family of painters working in Milan at the beginning of the 17th century. Dealing with macro-areas of analysis such as family workshops, artists’ training, aristocratic patronage and art market, the study looks at archival evidence of the Procaccini’s social and professional lives, proposing attributions based on documentary, stylistic and technical evidence. The result is a comprehensive analysis that, for the very first time, emphasizes the Procaccini’s role as a family of painters, providing an innovative approach for the study of their celebrated artistic careers.