School of Culture and Communication - Theses
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ItemRational fictions: Hollis Frampton's Magellan and the atlas of filmFielke, 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.
ItemGlobal positioning: international auctions and the development of the Western market for Chinese Contemporary art, 1998-2012Archer, Anita Sarah ( 2018)This thesis examines the role of international auction houses in developing a Western market for Chinese Contemporary art from 1998 to 2012. It highlights six art auction events as pivotal for the transmission of cultural and economic value from local contexts to global acceptance. This thesis underscores the agency of collectors, networked art mediators and auctions to influence market expansion in the West, thereby revealing auctions as creators and consecrators of symbolic and economic value of Chinese Contemporary art.
ItemJanet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: spatial environments and experiments in soundTrajkoski, 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.
ItemThis thing is intricate and it's everywhere: the art of Michael Stevenson as a model of historical timeParlane, Anna ( 2018)This thesis is the first detailed, scholarly analysis of the practice of the Berlin-based New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson (b. 1964). It examines the substantial body of work extending from Stevenson’s paintings of the late 1980s to the research-based installation projects he produced in 2012. The research has been motivated by two questions: What is it that ties this artist’s practice together? And what is its particular contemporary relevance? An eschatological model of historical time built from the unlikely combination of fundamentalist Christianity and postmodern theory underpins all of Stevenson’s work. This model constitutes an important contribution to current thinking about time and history. Stevenson’s works are at odds with both the linear time of modernity, and also the pluralist and horizonless “presentism” of contemporaneity. This thesis stems from a recognition of the central importance of Stevenson’s early religious experiences to his later art practice. The significance of his religious paintings of the late 1980s has never previously been acknowledged. The cataclysmic collision of postmodernity and Pentecostalism in Stevenson’s life and thinking during the 1980s, however, was formative. Following his departure from religious faith, Stevenson’s art practice has been a multi-decade project to reconstruct a shattered world-view, and also a deep engagement with the historical conditions of our time. Repeatedly circling the intellectual problems he encountered in and around the late 1980s—problems thrown into relief by the coincidence of postmodernism, the end of the Cold War, and his departure from the Church—Stevenson has developed a model of historical time that draws from both postmodern scepticism and religious faith.
ItemFrom diplomacy to diffusion: the Macartney mission and its impact on the understanding of Chinese art, aesthetics, and culture in Great Britain, 1793-1859Blakley, 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.