Centre for Ideas - Theses
Now showing items 1-12 of 26
The People’s Museum for Prince: inverting the curatorial lens from artist to audience
This practice-based research explores an alternative model for an artist’s museum focusing on the impact of the artist on their audience. It takes form as a dissertation, and an exhibition which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2018 as the first iteration of the museum. This research asks how the mourning for an artist and the aftermath of their death can inform an alternative model for an artist’s museum that inverts the curatorial lens from artist to audience in order to honour the deep impact of the artist on the lives of many. Taking Prince, who died in 2016, as a case study, it analyses curatorial, institutional and public practices relating to the musician and his audience, focusing on the public mourning for Prince and the rapid transformation of Paisley Park, Prince’s home and studio complex, into a new museum. The alternative artist’s museum model proposed is a curatorial response to the discrepancy between how Prince was mourned by the public and how he was officially memorialised by an institution. The research is situated within the frame of institutional critique, new institutionalism, and critical exhibition practices, and also within the context of recent contemporary museum exhibitions that take the musician as their subject. The research finds that an artist’s audience provides an alternative source of expertise and rich content for a museum. This new museum model works to transform the essence of the public testimonials and the other creative expressions enacted in the wake of the artist’s death into the generative centre of the museum. By drawing on the diverse, subjective perspectives of the artist’s audience, and through collecting and presenting their stories, creative works and biographical objects, a multidimensional portrait of the artist can emerge. This new model for an artist’s museum that places the audience’s experience at the centre has application beyond Prince to any artist who was deeply beloved by many.
Art & meaning in videogames
This practice led interdisciplinary research explores intersections between videogame design and technology, the creative arts and philosophy. Through the development of a new interactive art work the project brings together practitioners in the visual arts, experimental music and gaming technology to develop new modes of virtual representation. Framed by specific philosophical concepts the research project opens up possibilities for the re-imagining of videogames as durational and interactive processes of self-actualisation and reflection. My research and creative practice concerned the collaborative development of a work that is ‘something like a videogame’. My intent was for the work (hereafter ‘Materials’) to uniquely and constructively explore interconnections between philosophy and art while remaining foremost a work of interactive entertainment. Materials sits notionally within the emerging genre of ‘art games’, but seeks to differentiate itself by virtue of a considered philosophical agenda and an entirely novel and multidisciplinary approach to the process of game development: an approach that has seen the work of ‘fine artists’ curated into end product. It was exhibited at the inaugural National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Triennial, and its presence in a major institution as part of a large public show renders it further distinct, and offers up additional research and analytical potentialities. The work and research explored in this thesis shows that it is possible to blend talent and concepts from the seemingly disparate fields of videogame development, philosophy and art, to produce an experience that resonates with a broad audience.
Naked awareness: the private performance of inscribing skin
This practice-led research reflects upon the testimonies and engagement of participants and audience in my art practice, The Letting Go, which is performed both privately and in galleries and is informed by the intersections of visual art, psychotherapy, somatic practices, Buddhism and ritual tattooing. Drawing on my experiences, private sessions and participatory performances the thesis asks the question: Can this practice inform a new social practice for artists - a “private practice” model that collaboratively addresses shared vulnerability and self-awareness?
Being occupier: a white Australian visual art practice that engages with the nature of belonging to settler culture
This interdisciplinary, art-practice led research explores the relationship between art and questions of awareness, guilt and racism towards Indigenous people in this country. It asks how an art practice can help facilitate acknowledgement of Indigenous sovereignty and the continuing harm done by contemporary settler society. Through engaging with questions of identity and Heidegger's account of dwelling authentically, the research acts as a sensory provocation to destabilising settler subjectivity in Australia.
The remains of decay: composing auditory afterimages
This autoethnographic critical exploration reflects on an accompanying folio of music compositions created between early 2013 and late 2016: Suite from The Bloody Chamber for three harps, Rung for electric guitar, contrabass recorder, violin, double bass and sensor-triggered bells, extracts from The Experiment: a musical monodrama; bound south for string quartet and Harp Guitar Double Concerto for two soloists and chamber orchestra. A post-structuralist reading reveals an emergent philosophical and practice preoccupation with the sonic phenomenon of the auditory afterimage.
Agency and affect: curating political change
'Agency and affect: curating political change' is a practice-led research project that considers the relationship of art to political change, and the critical possibilities for agency in this relationship. To establish this, I develop and elucidate a theoretical framework for understanding art's operation in the social and political sphere, and relationship to the individual audience member. By foregrounding first an understanding of how an artwork operates within a relational sphere of individual subjectivity, I elaborate a new position arguing that the artwork and its affective potential can generate individual insight into the limits that bound behaviour and thought and, through this, enable a sense of agency in contributing to change through challenges to those limitations. I develop this framework through the process of conceiving, developing and staging a series of curatorial projects, employing the practice of critically-engaged curating as a research methodology, using a mode of curating situated within the discipline's contemporary discourse. The ideas of social agency, and engagement of a political nature, are intrinsic in the content, form and presentation context of each curatorial project. Interspersed between, various ideas are tested against these curatorial projects over the course of the research, and the results form the ground for the subsequent projects. This process of testing and evaluation of concepts against actual artistic projects and their strategies, feeds into the development of a robust theoretical framework for considering art and agency. The research paper concludes with an argument for how this framework offers a recalibration of the nexus between art, the political and everyday life and, in light of this, the ways in which an artwork might be measured and understood. The creative work is the curatorial development and realisation of the three projects: 'Civil Twilight End', 2011, a permanent public artwork situated in Melbourne’s Docklands; '[en]counters', 2013, a program of temporary performances and installations staged in the public sphere of Mumbai; and 'David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me', 2014, a retrospective exhibition presented at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Assisted solo: navigating relational & representational failure in music-dance collaboration
This practice-based research asks how failure can be harnessed as a generative tool for locating, articulating and extending creative capacity in Assisted Solo music-dance collaboration. Throughout this research, the term Assisted Solo is a solo work derived from improvised interaction between one instrumentalist (myself) and one dancer. The problematic of defining failure in improvisation is addressed through theoretical discourse on relational and representational aesthetics. Failure in praxis is explored in three interrelated bodies of work. Sounding – three audio albums of Assisted Solos based on research-informed provocations of failing, falling, convoluting, and capacity. Seeing – a series of photographs and drypoint etchings reflecting thematics of cracks, gaps, rupture, and repair. Interplay – interactive interviews with creative practitioners exploring the afore-mentioned provocations and thematics. A rhizomatic methodology permits multiple associations between the practical work and the main theoretical, philosophical underpinnings of Heidegger’s non-privative lacunae, Priest’s surplus of failure, and the Japanese concept of ma – a space, gap or interval. The practical and written work coalesce to form an argument in favour of embracing failure as a tool for locating, articulating, and extending capacity within the Assisted Solo and related fields of inquiry. Access the practical work via http://www.assistedsolo.com.
The poison garden
In their three 'Memories of a Sorcerer' passages in 'A Thousand Plateaus', Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari identify as sorcerers instead of as philosophers, and draw a line between the practice of sorcery and writing philosophy. At the heart of these passages, they mysteriously state that "[i]f the writer is a sorcerer, it is because writing is a becoming, writing is traversed by strange becomings that are not becomings-writer...". This thesis is an effort to investigate the strange becomings that dictate the practice of writing philosophy. More firmly, it is an attempt to practice sorcery through the discipline of reading and writing philosophy. To do so, it targets the strange-becomings that traverse Friedrich Nietzsche's writing as cues of an untimely and sorcerous philosophy. In particular, it poses Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal return as a philosophically ripe motif for practicing sorcery. The allure of the eternal return is at once a blessing and a curse, depending on how its cast is received. Nietzsche articulated the weight of his doctrine philosophically in 'The Gay Science' and 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'. He also recounts literally experiencing the thought of the eternal return in Sils-Maria in 1881. This experience haunted Nietzsche's life and his writing from its arrival until his collapse in 1889. Accordingly, this thesis will revolve with Nietzsche's thought of the eternal return at its axis, in tandem with a definition of sorcery inspired by Deleuze and Guattari. It will consider significant episodes from Nietzsche's main works, as well as biographical details, and perspectives put forth by other philosophers in his wake, such as Isabelle Stengers, Luce Irigaray, Gilles Deleuze, George Bataille, and Pierre Klossowski. This work treats citations from their texts as fragments of a larger incantation which, when read together, cast Nietzsche's thought of the eternal return into a new light. The practice of sorcery will be rethought philosophically as an active expression of the will to power, and further, as a means of fidelity to Nietzsche's overman and his untimely hope for the future. This will be put in direct contrast to reactive expressions of the will to power championed by ideologies of late-capitalism and neoliberalism. Throughout its course, this strange pairing of sorcery with Nietzschean philosophy is bound by an implicit thematic refrain, The Poison Garden, which is formally addressed and summarised at the conclusion of the work.
This is my body: re-imagining the mother and the sacred in art and ordinary life
This art practice-led project re-examines traditional images of the maternal body in Christian visual culture in order to generate new motifs that more ethically imagine the mother and the sacred for our time. Traditionally, the maternal body is represented as the Virgin Mary: a static, silent, vessel-like figure made divine through relation to her son. In this economical rendering, mother and woman are conflated, and bear little resemblance to real and ordinary maternal experience. Furthermore, given the dominant patriarchal culture of Christianity from which it arises, such a singular symbolic also prohibits the development of a feminine imaginary in divine terms. My research seeks to address this lack through engagement with the thinking of Luce Irigaray whose philosophy proposes an approach to human becoming that recognises and preserves sexuate difference. Remembering our origins in the mother – more precisely, the woman in the mother – broadens understanding of the Incarnation of God and its implications for our own being in terms of our difference and relation-with an other in ordinary life. New artworks and interdisciplinary connections proceed from my engagement with Irigaray and others, including philosophers Marie-José Mondzain, Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, mystic Julian of Norwich, and theologians Rowan Williams, Catherine Keller, Elizabeth A. Johnson and Heather Walton. In the studio, my practice draws on existing iconographic and architectural patterns from Christianity and my Anglican tradition, and four distinct new motifs for representing the maternal body emerge: Performing the Icon, Lament, Sacred Canopy and Lullaby. She moves, speaks, weeps, protests, makes space and sings in loving, knowing, thinking relation-with her child and her self. In each case, the woman in the mother is revealed and comprehended in terms of her multiple, relational, generative and enduring capacity. (Notably, she is never fully known, since she is irreducible and transcendent in her difference, as Irigaray proposes.) These motifs suggest that a religious symbolic will only contribute to our human becoming when it is invigorated by a feminine imaginary, characterised by a proliferation of images that variously identify the mother and the divine in ordinary contexts.
The seam: from/of construction to deconstruction
The seam is the principal construction technique employed by the contemporary fashion industry. It produces both garments and, in turn, the semiotic or fashioned body. The implications of the semiotic relationship - between clothes and bodies - are however largely obscured by fashion, which secrets the seam away inside the garment. As such, fashion is often considered under-coded compared to other semiotic systems, such as images or text. In contrast, this research seeks to both comprehend and reconsider the semiotics of the seam by drawing upon the notions of blindness and deconstruction in the work of Jacques Derrida. This deconstructive understanding of the seam is used to inform a close reading of Roland Barthes’ The Fashion System that makes visible the implicit signification of the garment within the text. Furthermore, these notions are explored through fashion practice in the form of clothing which itself makes visible the obscured signification of the seam and reconsiders the garment’s relationship to the body.
Invisible words: the semaphore of skin
In 2003, upon the death of my father, I found four letters. Three were written by my grandmother – a woman I never knew and who was rarely spoken about – and the other recounted the events that led to her deportation and death in a Soviet work camp in Siberia in the 1940s. Viewed as correspondence, as depositories of memory, as suppressed herstories, these inherited artefacts invite questions concerning language, words and images – their ability to at once reveal and obscure meaning, their power to manipulate or be manipulated by both creator and spectator. Perhaps more significantly, these artefacts, like some enigmatic umbilical cord, some sinewed, ancestral thread, urge an unforgetting and reshaping, a giving voice and material expression to that which had been previously silenced and concealed. ‘Invisible Words: the semaphore of skin’ draws on cross-disciplinary practices to articulate the impact of an inherited trauma and silenced memory. The project has at its origins these once-hidden letters, and the several photographs that accompanied them. Although these artefacts clearly expose themselves as narratives of trauma, they also reveal, in what they don’t say, a multilayered censorship. As custodial progeny of this embodied trauma, this thesis and the creative works developed seek to translate beyond the written and argue for an inhabitation of the liminal in order to articulate the impact of a previously silenced and concealed trauma. The creative component of this project has involved both studio- and field-based research and utilises the mediums of photography, video, installation, play-writing and ‘skin’ – a practice situated on the traumatic periphery inhabited by roadkill – to give material form, voice and expression to this sensorial and familial wound.
The untranslatable, a poetic place
This research project is concerned with ‘the untranslatable', which I identify as that which, in art, resists translation into everyday language yet touches me lovingly and truthfully. Through a manner of ‘poetic translation’ that is experiential and reflective as well as semantic and material, and by questioning how an artwork can embody the untranslatable, the project develops concepts to think about the untranslatable and to articulate its presence within an installation artwork that allows for new meanings to enter through audiences’ engagement with the work. Informed by philosophical, theoretical and artistic works that share concerns with the oppositional and draw our awareness towards neutral, subtle and nuanced appearances and understandings of the world, the research investigates the poetic works of art that liberate and provoke our perception and sense of being in this life-world. The research is undertaken through my experiencing and reflecting on these elements: my grandmother’s poetic enunciation about Mt. Aso, shifting shadows of an acrylic cube (a remnant), and Jacques Derrida’s interpretation of chora and ma as a place for ranslation/transference, which is untranslatable. This process, which in turn draws resonant voices from various disciplines, not limited to either Western or Eastern knowledge, to ancient or contemporary time, to one side or one sex, is manifested in my art-making and thesis writing; my artworks inspire and test my thesis, together investigating these five key concepts: ‘Pure Language’, the ‘Poetic’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Transference’ and ‘Embodiment’. As anyone struggles with that which resists translation in art, The Untranslatable, a Poetic Place, is written for both artists and audiences. Within the context of this thesis, ‘the untranslatable’ can be best defined as the life that drifts as it metamorphoses and transforms our experience in and reflection on the world in a more rich and poetic manner. As it ‘transfers’ in variant ways, it can only be embodied temporarily by the poetic work of art; in a poetic language that contains ‘fertile silence’, an architectural body that internalises emptiness/hollowness, or an enduring form of love that longs for motherhood. This embodiment is perceived and experienced as ‘shadow light’ (as truthful, an aid to knowledge) that shifts; an ambiguous image that shimmers; a nuance of love that trembles; or a poetic place that opens.