School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    'Parafeminism' and parody in contemporary art
    Castagnini, Laura ( 2014)
    Humour is a pleasurable and productive strategy for feminist artists; however, its role within feminist practice has received limited scholarly attention in the last two decades. The most recent study on the role of humour in feminist art is Jo Anna Isaak’s book Feminism and Contemporary Art: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Laughter (1996, Routledge), which frames feminist subversive laughter through the carnivalesque. Arguing that Isaak’s theory does not account for subsequent paradigm shifts in practice and ideology, this thesis aims to develop a conceptual framework that can explicate the forms and effects of humour currently emerging in contemporary feminist art. To develop this conceptual framework I draw upon art theorist Amelia Jones’ concept of ‘parafeminism,’ which suggests that contemporary feminist art is engaging in a revision of second wave methodologies: assessing and building upon earlier strategies by rejecting coalitional identity politics and reworking feminist visual politics of ‘the gaze.’ I interpret Jones’ theory by returning to Linda Hutcheon’s notion of parody, in order to frame three significant shifts in feminist practice: intimate corporeal preoccupations, phallocentric modes of spectatorship, and historical re-appropriation. To give focus to the influence of these changes in artists’ practice over the last three decades, I apply my framework of parafeminist parody to two major Euro-American case studies: an early Pipilotti Rist video, entitled Pickelporno (1992), and a more recent example, Mika Rottenberg’s video installation Mary’s Cherries (2004), as well as to a selection of works that traverse both video and performative modes of practice by three Australian artists (and collectives): Brown Council, Catherine Bell and the Hotham Street Ladies. Drawing upon writings from Freud, affect theory and corporeal semiotics, I extend Jones’ theory to this wider range of artworks thereby identifying ‘parafeminism’ as a greater phenomenon than previously proposed. To summarise, I aim to identify and develop a theoretical approach that will enable deeper understanding of humorous elements in contemporary feminist art.