School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    This thing is intricate and it's everywhere: the art of Michael Stevenson as a model of historical time
    Parlane, 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.