Centre for Cultural Partnerships - Theses

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    Craftivism as DIY citizenship: the practice of making change
    Fitzpatrick, Tal (2018)
    As it is currently understood ‘craftivism’ is a term that can be used to describe any activity that incorporates the techniques of craft with the goals of activism. In this thesis, I consider the limitations of this conception and ask whether a more nuanced account of the value of craftivism could be developed by broadening this understanding to include seeing craftivism as a mode of do-it-yourself (DIY) citizenship. Through this repositioning I consider how craftivists can actively perform, test, rehearse and engage in the practice of democracy as part of their everyday lives. I also investigate the different ways that craftivist actions, regardless of their scale or political intent, contribute towards positive social, cultural and political change. I do this by considering how craftivism works to enhance people’s sense of political agency, foster social connection and reveal dissensus. The key question driving this research is: How does approaching craftivism as a mode of DIY citizenship empower artists and makers to actively engage in the practice of democracy and to materialise social, cultural and political change? To tackle this, I explore what approaching craftivism as a mode of DIY citizenship looks like in practice through seven socially engaged craftivism projects delivered over the course of four years. These include a variety of participatory and collaborative craftivism projects, as well as projects delivered in partnership with community groups and non-profit organisations. These projects vary in scale and political intent, and include interventions in public, private, institutional and online spaces. The material artworks and two self-published books created as part of this research project were exhibited at an exhibition titled ‘Craftivism HQ,’ which was held at Kings Artist-Run in Melbourne (7-10 March 2018).
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    Miranda Must Go: Rethinking the generative capacities of critique, discomfort and dissensus in socially engaged and site responsive art
    Spiers, Amy (2018)
    This PhD research is situated within the expanded field of public and socially engaged art. Such art practices employ participation, dialogue, community engagement and site- responsive activities to stimulate reflection and action on the present social order. This study is concerned with examining the strategies and methods that socially engaged artists employ when responding to conflict and tension encountered in the social field. Prominent advocates in this field, such as Grant Kester, have championed a socially engaged art that ameliorates social conflict by producing consensus-building, collaborative engagements and concrete social outcomes—such as an increase in community cooperation and cohesion. Attending this argument is a belief that contemporary artists should move beyond a detached, superior position of critiquing or problematising the social in their work and instead engage communities in constructive dialogue that seeks to formulate actual solutions to society’s problems. Against this view, this research explores socially engaged art’s capacity to stimulate trouble and critical reflection, contributing to social change by providing spaces to collectively confront and debate divisive problems that are overlooked and have no straightforward resolutions. Informed by theory and artistic strategies concerned with critique and disagreement’s generative capacity to stimulate bad affects and foment dissensus, this study draws on theorists such as Claire Bishop, Sara Ahmed and Jacques Rancière in order to rethink what a valuable artistic engagement with the social could constitute. Specifically, if we are to accept that deeply entrenched antagonisms and conflicts are irreducible social facts that should not be smoothed over, suspended or elided, how should a socially engaged artist negotiate tensions and divisions encountered in the social field? Furthermore—and as recent theorists such as Ahmed have contended—if vocal disagreement, refusal and discomfort are a transformative resource for a politics of social justice, how should the practical effects of critique, negation and troubling affects in socially engaged art be conceptualised? This study is significant as it contributes to socially engaged art discourse by reappraising the transformative effects and political importance of critical methods, examining how such approaches might be mobilised in the expanded field of socially engaged and public art. It does so primarily through a discussion of practice-led artistic research undertaken at Hanging Rock in Victoria, Australia, that culminated in the major artistic output of this research. The subsequent work produced, Miranda Must Go, was a conceptual campaign that made a decisive critique of the habitual, unthinking associations with a white vanishing myth at the iconic location. The work did not seek to reconcile tensions at Hanging Rock, but instead sought to productively animate them: enlarging what could be thought and felt about the site and provoking a collective review of the stories told there.
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    Composing contemporary ceremony
    Mackay, Margie (2017)
    Towards a praxial technique from a critical ‘practice as research’ perspective. Composed between 2007 and 2014, in collaboration with artists, Elders, and general public, Contemporary Ceremonies map multi-sited, transcultural ritual-art practices where Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians meet in reflexive exchange. This thesis posits a theory for composing these events from an emplaced and relational perspective utilizing Nelson’s definition of ‘Practice as Research’ which interrogates the “know that, know how and know what” of composition. This perspective includes propositional knowledge as found in ritual studies and Indigenous studies, procedural knowledge found in practice, and the ethical and instinctive choices made from experience and insight, which temper and guide aesthetics and poetics. An ‘Indigenist oriented research paradigm’ guides each step of this research, its findings, and outcomes, in an emplaced reconsideration of ritual theory and the artistic praxis of ceremony making. One vital ethical and relational imperative has been to articulate compositional ‘matters of concern’ from Western onto-epistemological lineages that I find to be in concert with Indigenous “Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing.” In doing so, I acknowledge and interrogate my own heritage and story in accordance with Indigenous protocols of research, as articulated by Shawn Wilson in ‘Research is Ceremony.’ The post-humanist philosophies of Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk and their complimentary theories of spheres and networks have assisted in articulating the ethical, relational, and spatial perspectives in this approach. Through abbreviated grounded theory analysis of the structural, philosophical, and social dynamics revealed in four case studies, theory coalesces throughout the passage of the thesis to reveal the proposed praxial technique for Contemporary Ceremony composition as conclusion. Data collected for analysis includes auto-ethnographic accounts of case studies, artist’s diaries, video and photographic documentation, anonymous questionnaires, and working drawings, all of which have enabled the ‘matters of concern’ found in compositional dynamics to be identified and grouped into ‘categories of meaning.’ Categories of meaning emerged from scrutinizing data through a ‘Lefebvrean lens’ which considered producing the space of CCs, determining how they were conceived and perceived, and charting them as they evolved and were enacted in lived experiences. Hyperlinks in the text enable an experience of a mediated version of these CCs, and further detail is provided in auto- ethnographic accounts of each of the case studies. This thesis is structured in three books. It honours Wilson’s contention that ‘research is a ceremony’ through following the trifold schema of Arnold van Gennep’s theory on rites of passage. The first book, ‘Cosmos – Rites of Separation’ considers how the cosmos of Contemporary Ceremony is conceived. The second book, ‘Community – Rites of Transition’ considers the communities’ and other entities’ perceptions of CCs, whilst the third book ‘Artist’s Self – Rites of Incorporation’ reveals the artist’s material thinking, and from analysis of lived experience, disentangles the praxial technique.
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    Dissenting fiction re-righting law: practice-led research into biopolitics, women’s rights and reproductive justice in Ecuador
    Galarza, Maria Teresa (2017)
    Through a feature-length screenplay and accompanying dissertation this creative practice as research project addresses questions of biopolitics, women’s rights and reproductive justice. The research focuses on my own country, Ecuador, but alludes to a broader Latin American context. In this research, the practice of fiction screenplay writing configured my own understanding of the addressed issues. Based on this understanding, in the dissertation, reflecting upon “The Ladies Room” screenplay, I formulate an explanation around these issues. The first chapter of the dissertation focuses on the legislative context of “The Ladies Room” story. The second, third, fourth and fifth chapters articulate the possible world the screenplay proposes, relative to our four protagonists, respectively. The first chapter juxtaposes Ecuadorian Constitutional and Criminal Law, and public policy, against international human rights instruments with regard to women’s rights. Through the screenplay’s character of Isabel, the second chapter interrogates reproductive coercion and access to safe abortion, the notion of potentiality (not) to, the institution of motherhood and the practice of mothering. The third chapter revolves around Marcia, and how this female character embodies forms of biopolitical power that discipline the body and regulate the population; this chapter also reflects upon the family as an institution and the differential valuation between productive and reproductive work. In the fourth chapter, I understand Alice as a gendered configuration of Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer, and it is through her that the screenplay investigates the possibilities of speaking and been heard, the historically conflicting appearance of women before law, and contemporary forms of thanatopolitics. The fifth chapter interrogates the notion of “unwanted” children, articulated by the character of a little girl, Karlita. This proposes a reflection about a child, any child, as a being-after-birth, the pure possibility of a life, that is a life-to-be-mothered, characterized by a constitutive relationality. The dissertation’s final chapter argues for the necessity of beings-after-birth to create another form of biopolitics, one that is no longer a technology of power over life, but of power of life.
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    Each moment is the universe: filming the Tibetan Buddhist community of Yumbulakhang in China
    Cheng, Yu Su (2017)
    This practice-based creative PhD project consists of a 135-minute PhD essay film and a context-driven dissertation, to demonstrate a research outcome for a relational, non-duality, improvisational, reflexive and formless filmmaking of “right now, right here” in the everyday world. This is an exposition which reflects a Buddhist framing of “each moment is the universe” as explored through 20 months of fieldwork and film production in the Tibetan Buddhist community of Yumbulakhang of China. The research showcases a process of filmmaking that emerges through a process of limitlessness to accommodate a possible film becoming, within and across a spectrum of key references, including Jean Rouch, Nathaniel Dorsky, Karl Heider, David MacDougall, inter alia, for interpreting a larger cultural and social context where the practical filmmaking here is refined.
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    Reflexivity, collaboration and ethical documentary filmmaking: a practice led approach
    Thomas, Stephen (2017)
    This creative practice research concerns reflexivity, collaboration and ethics in authored documentary filmmaking—with a focus on the filmmaker-participant relationship. The written thesis provides a first-hand account and self-reflexive analysis of the production of Freedom Stories, consisting of a feature and six short documentaries. These constitute the creative component of the doctorate and utilise reflexivity in the quest to achieve a more ethical practice. Recent scholarship has questioned the view of documentary participants as powerless in the filmmaking process, recognising their agency in relationships with filmmakers and the reality of consent as a process of ongoing negotiation, in which a right of veto is considered. Taking this as a starting point, I have employed an explicitly collaborative approach through which former asylum seekers were invited to share their stories of arrival, detention, and eventual settlement in Australia. An important aim was to explore how such an attempt to deal with this asymmetrical power relationship between filmmaker and participant might be carried into the creative product itself to render the filmmaking process more transparent. The importance of mutual trust and what it means to sensitively engage with participants was central to this exploration. As Freedom Stories features people from the Middle-East, who have often been negatively represented as the ‘other’ in western commentary, I found the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to be particularly relevant. This kind of filmmaking depends on the quality of the encounter with participants, and in a way, what I have articulated is a kind of heightened ethics of everyday life¬—the aim of which is to work for the benefit of the participants, not just the film. This ethical tension permeates the filmmaking process, in which the rounded representation of participants is paramount. In the written thesis, I self-reflexively examine dilemmas experienced during filming and editing, when the processes involved and the imperatives of narrative storytelling tended to work against ethical representation. I also discuss the dilemmas of exploiting personal stories of pain, which are common among asylum seekers. In experimenting with reflexivity in my filmmaking, I have articulated an approach that incorporates notions of performativity and improvisation. Through analysing the production process, including by means of a Production Journal, I have developed an iterative-reflexive approach to both practice and research. The conclusions reached confirm the centrality of participants in ethical filmmaking; the importance of a collaborative model in which agency is encouraged; the requirements of personal integrity and self-awareness in the filmmaker; and the necessity of ongoing review as a mode of reflexive ethical practice. Such attributes require an environment that encourages their employment, which is not always the case in the film and TV ‘industry’. The viability of this collaborative approach has been demonstrated through applying the ideas enunciated to achieve a more ethical practice, a greater transparency, and what might be termed a redemptive aesthetic, which calls on audiences through the performance of the documentary work to engage in deeper empathy with what really matters—that is, the life experiences of the people whose stories are explored on screen.
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    Non-representational geographies of therapeutic art making
    BOYD, CANDICE (2015-11-12)
    This thesis is an exploration of the non-representational geographies of therapeutic art making, drawing on practice-led research methods from the creative arts. It is, therefore, interdisciplinary. The work comprises two examinable components—a major project (creative work) and the written dissertation. After a review of three major bodies of literature, the thesis outlines a series of geographical engagements with the practices of visual art making, poetic permaculture, subterranean graffiti, fibre art, and dance therapy. The ‘findings’ are presented in two empirical chapters. The first is a collection of poetry designed to animate fieldwork encounters, and the second describes a body of creative work that was audienced at a PhD art exhibition in 2013. In its entirety, the work attempts to think therapeutic activity at the boundary of the body and extending outward—into the cosmos—rather than inward, in support of a fragile ego. Informed by contemporary feminism, Guattari’s ethico-aesthetic paradigm, Whitehead’s process-oriented ontology, and Deleuze’s thinking on sense and ‘the event’, the work reclaims therapeutics as ecological, spatial, and material.
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    Beyond voice poverty: new economies of voice and the frontiers of speech, listening and recognition
    DE SOUZA, POPPY (2015)
    The unsettling effects of neoliberal culture - with its shaking loose of the social connections that bind individuals to each other, instead placing them within increasingly competitive and entrepreneurial markets - together with the uncertainties that come with new configurations of technology, bring with them an urgent desire to reclaim a sense of agency over the structures and processes that shape daily life. As narratives of ‘democratisation’ and ‘decline’ emerge as the dominant tropes for thinking through these complex cultural shifts, voice has gained increasing currency as a frame and intervention into some of these impacts. Yet while both critical and popular accounts of voice are generally organised around these two divergent narratives, each is in no way distinct from the apparent paradox at the heart of advanced liberal democracies: specifically, that individual liberty and freedom of expression are contingent upon distributed structures of power and control that shape the contours of what is and is not ‘narratable’; who is heard and who listens; and designate which categories of voice are made to matter. This thesis takes up an interdisciplinary frame to intervene in these debates and investigates the shifting meanings, practices and values of voice in the context of this contemporary landscape. It critiques prevailing notions of voice grounded in an intersubjective, relational ethics and unpacks some of the assumptions, values and norms that underpin both celebratory and crisis narratives. Part Two develops a framework for voice that accounts for new attachments and relationships between the categories of speech, listening and recognition as they take on new formations. I draw on several recent ‘limit cases’ that complicate existing notions of voice, and foreground emerging sites of struggle where neoliberal, informational and biopolitical forces intersect with modes of everyday cultural production and technosocial practice in distinctly provocative ways. These include: the Occupy Wall Street (OWS), digital storytelling (DST), free and open source software (F/OSS) and Quantified Self (QS) movements; the United States PRISM program; and the Right to be Forgotten. Despite attempts to re-humanise voice through a persistent appeal to the ethics of social relations, it is my contention that any account of voice must also account for the ways that speech, listening and recognition are increasingly attached to objects of value that circulate within new economies of voice. As such, I present a provisional framework for thinking about voice beyond its historical arrangement, one that pushes beyond current notions of voice poverty, towards new frontiers of voice.
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    Meanings and measures of urban cultural policy: Local government, art and community wellbeing in Australia and New Zealand
    BLOMKAMP, EMMA (2013)
    Local government in Australia and New Zealand has long contributed to the cultural life of communities, particularly by providing services and infrastructure for creative activities. Through a historical literature review and four contemporary case studies, this research explores some of the many goals, values, techniques and traditions that are embedded in local government arts programmes and cultural policies. Drawing on the theories of governmentality and wellbeing as capabilities, this thesis argues that urban cultural policy in Australia and New Zealand is fundamentally driven by local government’s rationale of providing the conditions in which community members can live free and flourishing lives. Faced with increasing demands for accountability and evidence-based policy and planning, local government officers are endeavouring to articulate and assess arts programming and cultural policy in relation to broad aspirations. Their efforts are complicated by the multiple definitions of culture, competing rationales for supporting the arts and the difficulty of quantifying unpredictable and intangible results, not to mention the myriad other activities and agencies that shape cultural community outcomes. Cultural policy evaluation is important for learning and legitimation, but it presents significant challenges for local government. This thesis examines how municipalities in Australia and New Zealand develop and implement cultural plans and services in this complex environment. Exploring the problems of meaning and measurement that arise from certain discourses and practices, it demonstrates the value of an interpretive approach to cultural policy analysis. The case study research shows that local government officers require an array of skills and different types of knowledge to design, deliver and evaluate urban cultural policy. Their discourses and practices are shaped by overlapping traditions of local governance and multiple forms of cultural value. Community wellbeing indicators are put forth as a relevant tool for local government calculations, but evaluating the results of arts and cultural policy requires more than the careful construction of meaningful measures. Effective evaluation of urban cultural policy would recognise the significance of numerous policy frames and multiple forms of context-dependent knowledge.
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    “Naming the world”: a relational approach to representational practice in socially-engaged arts and cultural indicators
    Badham, Marnie Kay (2012)
    This thesis argues for a relational approach to forms of representational practice, offering meaningful ways for communities to engage in self-determination by “naming the world.” This approach challenges the cultural hierarchies of both formal government policy benchmarks and contemporary art paradigms, by offering a more localized and situated approach to represent local values and aesthetics. Paulo Freire’s conscientização is used as a framing device to identify this relational approach in two forms of representational practice: socially-engaged arts and the development of cultural indicators. This pedagogy of critical consciousness offers a dialogic space to reconcile real world contradictions and prevailing mythologies. Thus, “naming the world” is understood as a process of representing one’s self, shifting from object-hood to a position of subjectivity. The thesis positions these representational practices as both method and subject of inquiry through the exploration of two practice-led case studies. The studies investigate the development of local cultural indicators in two unique contexts: the increasingly gentrified and socially diverse City of Port Phillip, Melbourne, Australia and the North Central neighbourhood in Regina, Saskatchewan, identified in media reporting as “Canada’s Worst Neighbourhood.” The thesis concludes by emphasizing the inextricable link between aesthetics and ethics in these forms of representational practice and that cultures are neither closed nor static, but in fact, multi-layered, evolving and unique; this has specific implications for the field of cultural indicators. Comparative studies are illuminated as fundamentally problematic, and instead, a new relational approach to contextually rich and community-driven processes is mandated.