Miranda Must Go: Rethinking the generative capacities of critique, discomfort and dissensus in socially engaged and site responsive art
AffiliationSchool of Art
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr Amy Spiers
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.
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References