Victorian College of the Arts - Theses
Now showing items 1-12 of 32
Something's gotta give: Subjectivity and the everyday encounter, through the moving image
The break-up of my long-term relationship unintentionally guided my MFA project. Over the past two years I found myself in the position where I needed to respond to unexpected personal circumstances that caused trauma in my life. Without warning the intimate parameters that I had coexisted within became inaccessible to me. The state of dysfunction that ensued through this breakdown caused me to reconfigure my values as an artist and to find new ways of being productive. With the presence of immanent deadlines it was necessary for me to adapt the activities of my practice to align with my emotional circumstances. Through this reappraisal, I found that my artistic activities function in partnership with my personal life, and that to attempt to disentangle the two is essentially missing the point. The brokenness and dysfunction that began as setbacks, have intimately sewn together my work and life, and through this I inadvertently located the political concerns that orient my practice. The necessity of this bind has invested a new urgency in my work and raised the questions that form the pathway of this thesis. My research project stakes a claim for the value of subjectivity, through the vulnerability of the personal, and the artistic vitality of the historically repressed everyday environment. My video practice resonates through a feminist disposition, the subjective politics that underpins my work. Harnessing an evolving catalogue of lived experience I have gathered disparate sources, bringing them together in this thesis. My own personal experiences are used as primary figures in my work and it is through these subjects that my research has been shaped. I take a journey of questioning and reflection, with the company of artists and researchers who inspire my practice. I record fragments of my surroundings, daily minutiae, fleeting observations and temporal moments. Through structural filmic devices - the long take, fixed view and close-up magnifications - I hold these ephemeral encounters, repeatedly rewinding, pausing, and zooming in. I am interested in the subjective qualities that can be drawn out through filmic excavation. The outcome of my research project is a series of video recordings, projected at varying scales in the gallery. The images are pieces of my daily life and objects that were the focus of bored and empty stares while I lay in bed. Housed in the space of the gallery, these intimacies are brought into a field of public and private subjectivities, where they resonate through the embodiment of the viewer.
Ethics, Agency and Disruption: Toward a rights-based practice of working with children in contemporary performance
This thesis, comprising 50% written dissertation and 50% creative work, argues for a new ethical model of working with children and young people in contemporary performance. Through analysis of Youth Arts pedagogies, inclusive theatre practice, models of participation, the symbolic potential of the child in performance and the work of contemporary Australian practitioners making work with children for adult audiences, this thesis explores an innovative ‘rights-based’ model of contemporary performance practice relevant to working with children and young people. This model, framed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), challenges the idea of children as vulnerable and in need of protection and argues for the recognition of the child’s voice and champions the creativity of children in performance. The combined practical and written outcomes of this thesis offer a new, nuanced understanding of children as cultural agents, raising the prospect of a creative process that foregrounds deeper considerations of the strengths and capacities of children.
The Presence of Space: Embodiment, Vision, and Art
The dominant Western conception of space remains the Cartesian paradigm - despite many possible alternatives. This is further reinforced by ubiquity of perspectival space, and the dominance of photography, which reifies this paradigm. This project investigates the self’s relation to space by examining personal, artistic and social frameworks of experiential observation, in doing so, it seeks to evoke these broader conceptualizations of space. The research firstly establishes a framework of references related to the cosmos, the earth and the solar system, with concepts around locating the body in space, and notions of alignment, movement, distance, scale and pattern. The body of creative works which include site-specific installation, wall painting, drawing, photography and animation, are collectively titled the Gnomon Experiments, and explore various uses of the term ‘gnomon’ which refers to locating ones’ self in space, point-of-view, and alignment. The research also examines the reflexive nature of systems of representation of space such as linear perspective, photography, screen and optics in influencing the expression and experience of space, through the theories of Erwin Panofsky and Vilem Flusser who respectively examine these ‘learnt perceptions’ as ideologies encoded with complex symbols and metacodes. This research investigates the possible applications, implications and readings these ideologies might have in spatial arts practice and other works that engage the embodied experience of the viewer. Using various techniques of merging the appearance of two and three-dimensional space the artist endeavours to understand how photography influences spatial practice even in the absence of lens or print. Many of the works incorporate visual illusions and anamorphic distortions where movement and the embodied experience of the participant activates the work. The work questions how we come to feel located in space, and how we construct a sense of space not just around us, but from within us. The project culminates in a minimalist room scaled installation that embodies spatial experience. The percentage split of this research is 75% creative practice, and 25% written dissertation.
Identifying and Developing the Personal Voice in Improvised Music Performance
This study documents a phenomenological and philosophical enquiry into the nature and dimension of the personal voice (McMillan 1996) in improvised music performance. Utilising heuristic research (Moustakas 1990), a practice-based research methodology adapted for the purpose of this enquiry, this study examines my artistic practice as a musician, composer and soprano saxophonist. This practice is observed through the differentiated stages of the development of musical syntax within improvisation. Works by J. S. Bach and John Coltrane are examined as potential sources of new material for improvised works. Arguably, music history appears to be an additive process whereby each new generation of composers, performers and improvisers add new layers to an existing core of practice. However, when contrasting a relatively new performance practice, such as John Coltrane’s improvisations in the ‘Hard Bop’ genre, against the performance practice from the Baroque era by Bach, the performer may discover that the two music practices, chosen for the purposes of the source materials, share elements and processes. This could contribute to informing new musical language through the process of generative or improvised music performance. This study is significant because, observably, within elite music training institutions and the concert activity of major metropolitan cities there appears to be a rigid demarcation of performance practice. A music practitioner may prioritise interpretive music performance over improvised music or vice versa. While the notion of composer/performer is well understood in contemporary music practice, what possibilities exist for the notion of generative interpretation and the development of the personal voice (McMillan 1996) and individual expression in improvisation? This thesis examines source materials from diverse styles by J. S. Bach and John Coltrane to consider the process and context of the creative process in improvised music and the development of the personal voice (McMillan 1996). This practice-based research project (Barrett and Bolt 2012) is examined via musical practice, assimilation and interpretation, where the elements of music and musical language derived from the source materials are examined, practised, recorded and considered as containing the potential for informing spontaneously improvised outcomes. Musical syntax arising through the process of improvisation is demonstrated via transcription and analysis to understand personal idiosyncratic qualities in the form of musical gestures within spontaneously improvised music. The development and identification of creative and musical influences are examined through the cultivation of an in-depth understanding and assimilation of the source materials. To ascertain the extent of musical influences on spontaneous improvisation, more broadly in terms of implicit style and interpretation, or explicitly in terms of how specific and measurable musical elements such melodic, harmonic and rhythmic material are examined via transcription and analysis (Mulholland and Hojnacki 2013) informing the creative outcomes and the extent and nature of influence that can be measured, within the spontaneous solo improvisations in the context of this study.
Satisfaction and Doubt: Working in and on the Grid
This studio-based research project illustrates an investigation into personal motivation and doubt through the practice of expanded drawing. Using shading, scratching and cutting, I intervene with the surface of space in response to the architectural propositions at hand. During this process, I have found myself trying to make sense of these actions, particularly with regards to the influence that drives them, and account for whether they align with a non-hierarchical, fluid theory of gender. At the centre of this research is the perception that geometry, as it is commonly spoken of and received in art discourse, is binary in its correspondence with gender. Research into this discourse has largely been led by a community of artists and art critics who collect around the grid. I am concerned with the social and material politics that surround the grid and frequently return to this structure as a resource for clarity, whilst also approaching it with a certain degree of scepticism. In the written dissertation that follows, I attempt to unpack this drawing practice, understand why it looks to the grid as an anchor and why this, in turn, generates doubt about my actions in the studio.
Dis/ease: Neoliberal pressure, vaccinated with a touch of Spiritualism. Built in Self-discovery
This research project Dis/ease- Neoliberal pressure, vaccinated with a touch of Spiritualism. Built in Self-discovery, explores the complexities of late capitalism under the guidance of neoliberalism. Here, products are positioned within the consumer sphere as an antidote to ongoing pressures of the workplace, increased individualism and result in an increase in anxiety and di/ease. This exegesis takes an interdisciplinary research methodology using sociology to position current issues within a broader critical discourse. This project is practice driven research resulting in a 75% - 25% practical vs written component. The three-dimensional installations accompany this exegesis use various media, including 3D printing, 3D rendering, casting, found objects, video, audio and edibles products, among others. The works presented are in part parody, part critique and are art works framed as products. Each works acts as an entry point to a broader discourse around the body, mind and soul as they are constructed within late-capitalism and in relation to the prominent Self-care and Well-being industry.
The doing of dancing: Kinaesthetic attention, the dancer and agency
The focus of this research is kinaesthetic attention understood from the point of view of a dancer. The research is practice-led, body-first thinking that resulted in three choreographic experiments. Given that kinaesthesia does not have a single reference point, this dissertation intentionally puts forward a multiplicity of questions and viewpoints to understand the world of kinaesthesia. In cohesive work with attention, I attempt to highlight the relevance of kinaesthesia for dance scholarship, note its current flight under the theoretical radar, and ask how kinaesthetic attention enables dancers’ agency. The studio research examines how kinaesthetic attention may be useful via two modes of being – with movement: the daily practice of a dancer, and within choreographic processes. Present in the body of the paper are fragments of voices from the fields of dance, phenomenology, philosophy, physiology, psychology and history.
Overlooked performances: mobile computing, site-responsive arts practice and the spectral dramaturgy of vanitas
This practice-led research project uses observations from the creation of Vanitas, an ‘artwork for smartphones and cemeteries’, to establish a critical framework for discussing the impact of mobile computing on site-responsive arts practices, and by extension, everyday experiences of outdoor locations. This is achieved through the examination of overlooked performances which extend from the performance ontology of computation to human practices perpetuating seamlessness in mixed-reality artworks. By investigating how performances are created and experienced when live-action events within a site-responsive performance are combined with smartphones (mobile computing devices) and electronic messaging (email, telephony, SMS, and in-app messaging controlled by transmedia networked communication systems), the research addresses in microcosm the complex impact of mobile computing on what David Berry terms a “softwarized society”. The three parts of this thesis, and the artwork Vanitas, employ contrasting approaches to overlooked performances in mobile computing and site-responsive performance. Part One takes a high-level systems approach to key reference artworks and presents ways to identify their common features and contrast them with Vanitas. Part Two takes a ‘low-level’ immanent approach to the history of smartphone technology to identify the ‘overlooked performance ontology of computation’ and applies this to the ‘illuminated podcast’ mode of Vanitas Chapter One. Part Three employs an exegetical method of ‘spectral dramaturgical writing’ to incorporate the complex range of voices present in the walk through Melbourne General Cemetery with Vanitas Chapter Two. By employing a hybrid practice-led research methodology that combines the realisation of Vanitas (30%) with a written thesis (70%) this PhD provides a positive contribution to the growing creative and critical response to the impact of mobile computing on performance practice, digital media and death. It proposes a number of critical concepts such as ‘overlooked performances’, the ‘ideology of seamlessness’, ‘spectral dramaturgy’ and via the ‘overlooked performance ontology of computation’ provides a way reconsider digital data, media, software and interface from within an immanent performance paradigm.
Infinite spaces of the Beloved
Infinite Spaces of the Beloved recuperates certain characteristics of Persian Sufi poetry and Farsi literature as contemporary artistic material. In exploring the relationship between the poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi and his spiritual teacher and friend Shams-i-Tabrizi, this project attempts to experientially re-present certain aspects of Islamic mysticism through frameworks of contemporary post-conceptual art. More specifically, it will identify parallels and connections between these radically fictionalised, hypothetical and materially-infinite, as well as profoundly uncertain forms and contemporary experiences. Infinite Spaces of the Beloved articulates twenty-first century experiences of being through the creative possibilities located within hybrid cultural forms and languages. By activating meanings and nonsenses created through linguistic diasporas—using fragmented text and sound as a means of incarnating otherness, deterritorialisation and displacement—the research imagines utopic alternatives to the increasingly brutal and dystopic realities of twenty-first century existence.
Taskscape: Caring for Migrant Materials
This practice-led research examines concepts of value in art through the materiality of domestic space, and the personal experience of a migrant. The research locates the displaced or migrant entity – be it human or non-human – as a by-product of economic conditions related to standardisation, abstraction, invisible labour and the dematerialisation of the economy. The thesis and project are centred on this question: What diverse artistic methodologies, both in the studio and in the writing, can be pursued to counter standardisation, dematerialisation and revalue invisible labour? Through several projects initiated in the studio, my artistic exploration led me to adopt the concept of rematerialisation or material correspondence as care for materials: Rematerialisation is understood here as a method for revaluation and is tightly linked with the concept of a taskscape. Taskscape – a term borrowed from the anthropologist Tim Ingold – escapes the dichotomy between labour and leisure, and the separation of land from labour. The final outcome is a mixed media installation that counters economic abstraction and standardisation, creating parallels between the conditions of fragile economies and circulating invisible bodies. The text and the installation reflect the process of material correspondence that was developed in the studio. While the writing uses academic referencing, it is not in a pure academic style. Two chapters have been written in a fictional experimental style, which helps attune the writing to my concepts of rematerialisation as care and taskscape. It also establishes a correspondence between the studio and the writing. In chapter two, I write through the voice of a devalued coin, drawing on multiple sources related to theories of value, as well as literary examples. In chapter five, an industrialised pine wood pole comments on my studio practice. My research explores geographically dispersed artistic examples that present material processes of revaluation, rather than a mere critique of value. These examples are compared to twentieth-century artworks, which are considered critical of standardised value. Drawing on affect theories, that rematerialisation (through care and attention) may offer a “reparative” process that posits an alternative, in addition to exposing economic structures. Drawing parallels between the experience of the human body and objects (both in the studio and through the writing) my practice-led research led me to coin the term “migrant material.” This term is capable of embodying the devalued coin, the pine pole, my studio materials and my own experience as a migrant.
Strategies: an artist mother's maintenance manifesto
Becoming a mother is life-changing: it is well documented that it challenges the sense of self and identity. Maintaining an art practice while mothering could be defined as work. There is substantial literature to support the idea that mothering is a discipline just like art is. This involves ‘maternal thinking,’ a multiple-variable thought process used when caring for children. To support this notion, feminist theorists have developed the term matricentric or mother-centered feminism. This positions mothering more as a practice than an identity. This research paper is informed by matricentric feminist ideologies. Given these contributions to the current narrative surrounding motherhood, the idealised image of the ‘good’ mother still prevails in Western society. It appears that to be a ‘good mother’ a woman needs to put her children first. This is at the expense of her desires, passions, and interests. Based on personal first-hand experience as a mother, the widely accepted idea of the ‘good mother’ seems to stem from a patriarchal notion of motherhood that is disempowering and unrealistic. It is perceived that childrearing is gendered: men tend to generally be less involved in it while women are expected to be totally involved. How does one navigate these prevailing stereotypes and expectations surrounding the idea of the mother who is also an artist? Information on how to manage this conundrum remains an emergent field. Can matricentric feminism be present in an art practice in a seemingly patriarchal society? With practice-led research, informed by matricentric feminism, Strategies: An Artist Mother’s Maintenance Manifesto aims to investigate what kind of processes or strategies emerge from the labour expended when mothering and art making simultaneously. It seeks to validate the seemingly private nature of a mother’s work commonly associated with motherhood by devising four artistic strategies to connect the private to a public exhibition space. An autoethnographic methodology will be applied for this enquiry. Day-to-day personal experience as a mother and artist will be used as a reference, vis-a-vis the current discourse surrounding motherhood. This investigation seeks to contribute new narratives on the topic of motherhood and art. This will be achieved in part by applying the concept of trans/performance. The latter consists in connecting the work entailed in everyday mothering with the work involved in making artworks for an exhibition. In other words, trans/performance takes the work of a mother which has been commonly associated with the private and the domestic across into the public sphere where the art exhibition is held. The resulting creative outcomes or “strategies” emulate the works of the American artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Her art practice exposed through performance the invisible labour associated with motherhood in conjunction with other tasks associated with the maintenance of a city. It is suggested that an image of the ideal mother follows gendered conservative values. Framed around a matricentric feminist lens, the research reveals the complexity behind the responsibilities entailed in being both a mother and an artist, beyond societal expectations. An artist mother’s creative process is documented through personal diary entries, through descriptions of the major artworks and creative endeavors conducted for this research. To document this development are four installation works that investigate being a mother and an artist. These works manifest through sculpture, photography portraiture and video. The final outcome of this research is an installation in a gallery space. Over 200 sand-filled calico bags, with the word ‘MOTHER’ stenciled on them, are arranged in the space. Also secured on the gallery floor, walls and ceiling are a series of white wax and acrylic sculptures of the artist’s arm. A large, black and white photographic print is mounted on a wall. This work features a portrait of the artist holding both her children in her arms. Another work in the space is a video installation where the artist is seen in a series of clips cleaning sandbags and using sandbags to control water flooding into an outdoor landscape. The audio recording contains a combination of background noise and the artist’s voice in conversation.
This practice-led qualitative research investigates the relationship between digital artwork and determination. Technology has emerged as a problem for art. Identified with technological determinism, problem solving and scientific privilege, discussions of technology in art such as that proffered by Mark Titmarsh and the earlier New Tendencies movement emphasise technology’s social and cultural effects and its creation of structures and frameworks that tend to emphasise its power. A hybrid term, Un Determination, arising from the practical research component of this thesis, questions these strategies for creating digital art work suggests that the role of technology is not so clearly defined. This thesis consists of a written dissertation plus artworks made during the research period and exhibited at VCA Artspace 1, University of Melbourne in December 2019. This project asks in what ways can Un Determination reveal the negotiation of determination by digital artwork, and proposes that Un Determination is a useful, nuanced framework for encouraging future analysis and artworks. Phenomena that emerged from preparatory research and Selfie Video (2019), Selfie Cloud (2018), are used as case studies in discussion of Un Determination during a period of making, researching and contemplation. The exhibition consists of a video of a virtual model of the artist in her studio, and three large scale works each consisting of thirty black acrylic panels hand-printed with white ink. Given the qualitative research methodology, the dissertation offers insights but no grand narrative – identifying new questions and directions for projects. It examines and refers to artists including New Tendencies, Thomas Ruff, Seth Price, Roger Caillois and Dana Schutz and theorists including Martin Heidegger and Donna Haraway. It is argued that Un Determination is a critical zone for examining digital artwork situated in a deterministic structure, departing from this paradigm. The dissertation first defines terms used in digital artwork, establishing "digital" as including both handmade and technology-based media, with technology as knowledge situated in and reflecting the social and cultural power structures of contemporary and past times, including zombie code. Section 2 of the paper considers the concept of Determination from which Un Determination is defined and departs. Three characteristics of Determination emerged: firstly, the retreat of the artist to creator of systems; secondly, the creation of boring artwork, through relying upon the strategy of causal necessity and the use of pseudorandomness; and lastly, the reduction of materialisation to idea and a system of representation. Section 3 builds a case for Un Determination by examining three phenomena emerging from practical research: Case Study 1: Serial Killers: reinstates the artist as poet in the digital artwork, Case Study 2: How I was swallowed by the Blob and more or less lived: disrupts boredom allowing viewers to experience their own death and ascension; and finally; Case Study 3: Please touch me: introduces materialisation, touch and experienced time into digital artwork, identifying and departing from Determination’s privileging of vision, its homogenisation of touch and its view of time as duration. Section 4 identifies questions raised by Un Determination: about the artist as collaborator with technology, data collection as performance and labour in materialisation. In addition, questions arise focusing on the implications of time, inefficiency and touch. The movement of material from idea to its connection with temporality is particularly interesting. More research is necessary. Ultimately the Un Determination opens up the potential of questioning previously held assumptions about the conceptual structure of digital artwork.