Installing and unsettling imaginaries: rehearsing the social within the self
AffiliationSchool of Art
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Freya Pitt
The practice-led research outlined here explores ways of bringing attention to the mutual contingency of the self and the social through self-portraiture, culminating in a large multichannel projection and sound installation titled How to Deal with Difference (2018). In this thesis I discuss some of the formative influences on this work from various threads of social theory and contemporary installation practice. What we recognise as ourselves is deeply embedded in the social institutions we exist within. Drawing on Cornelius Castoriadis and others, I will use the term 'imaginary' as an articulation of the social constructions that both form and are formed by the individual. I also refer to the artworks created through this research as 'imaginaries', and through their installation have attempted to unsettle the solidity of various perceptions of the self, and the social. My studio practice is situated through analysis of related works by prominent contemporary artists, noting some of the similarities and differences to the approach I have taken. Works by William Kentridge, Camille Henrot, Pipliotti Rist and Lisa Reihana are discussed in some detail, my purpose here being both to acknowledge their influence and to articulate something of what is distinctive in the work I have created. Partly inspired by Judith Butler's account of performative identity and self-poesis, I filmed myself performing many varying and contradictory 'selves', in an exploration of my own relationality and self-formation. In imagining, performing and arranging these characters, I drew from social imaginaries I am implicitly involved in. By digitally compiling the footage, I composited myself into plural existence to disrupt the sense of singular coherence, although it is obvious that all characters are performed by me. I have positioned the performances as 'rehearsals' – they are not polished or complete, but iterative and partial. By trying on characters I do not think of as me, I seek to explore, through rehearsal, the social within myself. The result is an agonistic portrait of my own socially situated self, which is intended to allow multiple modes of engagement and space for self-reflection.
Keywordssocial imaginary; performative; art; installation; self portrait; installation art; video art
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