Victorian College of the Arts - Theses
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Aboriginal contemporary dance practice: embodying our ways of being, knowing and doing through dance storying
Abstract The Master of Fine Arts project embodies a practice of journeying to identify the connection between my Lama Lama Ayapathu Gugu Yalanji identity and dance practice. This is realised in a rematriating learning paradigm that enables a distinct dance lexicon and pedagogy specific to my Aboriginality, while emphasising heterogeneity with Aboriginal Contemporary dance and Aboriginal peoples. The project employs a transdisciplinary method encompassing Aboriginal worldviews, protocols and values specific to my Lama Lama Ayapathu Gugu Yalanji identity to safely navigate and negotiate Pama|Bama ways of being, knowing and doing within the academic space. This is inclusive of practice-led learning, dance cycle, storying, life writings and old ways for new ceremonies. In the cycle I learn of the social structures and socio-cultural disruption of my cultural identity to establish a social, cultural and political standpoint in the project, together with the herstory of Indigenous contemporary dance in a chronological order, including its social and political foundation, to situate myself within the Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) contemporary dance genealogy. With the knowledge I place my embodiment as an Aboriginal woman, mother and dancer central to the learning. In the project, I engage narrative, autoethnography and embodied writing techniques to create an immersive mapping of my embodiment of Country to contextualise Aboriginal contemporary dance within its artistic and cultural entirety. This is practiced through a body of creative work: four exhibits embodying my sense of belonging, and a written thesis in autoethnographic representation within a colonial ethos and practice. In this project, I learn my cultural knowledge comprises of both fluid and fixed consciousness, and Aboriginal contemporary dance is a means of expression for cultural revitalisation, healing and education. Therefore, in this practice Aboriginal contemporary dance performs as a medium for knowledge transmission within contemporary society. The connection between my Lama Lama Ayapathu Gugu Yalanji identity and Aboriginal contemporary dance is a manifestation of self-knowledge, elevating social, cultural and political perspectives of my Aboriginality.
Unlocking the Song Within: Applied process for writing collaborative songs with youth-at-risk
Songs and song-writing are an integral part of society. Positively engaging youth in the medium of music and song-writing holds significant benefits for the whole community. Youth crime, recidivism, unemployment, and disengagement from education, and consequent alienation from mainstream society within this cohort exists. Increasing numbers of youth are becoming exposed to the Victorian justice system, with record numbers of secondary education ‘dropouts’, makes these problems exacerbate. The project intends to outline a possible arts-based process for ameliorating this. The broad aims of this project are to document a song-writing process with youth-at-risk based on my practical/personal experience, and to publish the outcome for similar facilitators. This outcome is intended for those with no formal training in Music Therapy. Song-writing is well documented as having beneficial effects with youth-at-risk, though there is currently little documentation on actual processes for collaborative song-writing with youth-at-risk. This is identified as a problem, as idiosyncratic processes are normally used by facilitators, and there is a lack of knowledge sharing. By developing and publishing actual processes, new approaches may be used and then interrogated further by practitioners. In over six years of song-writing with youth-at-risk in different contexts and settings, I have found that self- expression through song-writing can help achieve a better self-worth and lead to a healthier, happier, and more productive life for the individuals I have worked with. The approach to this study is to examine relevant literature, develop a process for collaborative song-writing with participating youth-at-risk, test this process through co-writing songs with youth-at-risk, and document the co-writing activity to further develop the process. The value of this process to the participants will be assessed using questionnaires before and after the song-writing activity. The participants are youth deemed ‘at-risk’ by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and were identified through Living Music Australia.
Darpa press: Contratechnical artists' publishing
This artistic research considers the techniques and ethos of contemporary Internet art practice at a moment in which the Internet’s socio-technical discontents are coming into focus and our ability to imagine it as an equitable technology has faltered. By proposing a hypothetical mode of ‘contratechnical’ art, the research addresses practical and theoretical aspects of contemporary art when considered as an ‘aesthetic technology’ that is contra to its pre-emptive technological milieu. This project is constituted in the establishment of Darpa, an online press for artists’ publishing that has thus far produced six artists’ publications (four of which are online), alongside a reflective dissertation. The Darpa publications comprise elements of visual art, software, poetry, correspondence, documentation, and secrets. Considered together and separately, they seek to formally recollect ways that the Internet might have functioned otherwise. In the dissertation, I reflect on these works through an assembly of discursive concepts. These concepts include the untenability of contemporary art, the ethics of software development, the philosophy of technics, and the literary dialogues of documentation. The research recomposes the concerns of artists’ publishing and software development, proceeding episodically through each Darpa publication. I consider the processes of artists’ publishing in terms of a dynamic through which the aesthetic conditions of an artwork are interwoven within its technical production and circulation. I reread the archival histories of Internet protocols to draw out poetic and indeterminate dimensions which counter doctrines of good engineering. Taken as a whole, this artistic research attempts a contrary return to the ideal of internetworking as a radical mode of being together.
Cross-cultural encounters in dance imagery
Abstract This practice-led study seeks to explore the interface between different perspectives of East and West in dance practice. It focuses on the ways in which imagery is used in Korean traditional dance and in Western somatic contemporary dance, in particular ideokinesis. Intrinsic to my Korean cultural philosophy are the beliefs that the world is a dynamic, constantly changing place, in which humans’ experience can be optimised by finding balance and harmony with the natural world. Aspects of my cultural heritage, including the concepts of yin and yang and the notion of energies of nature, are subject to exploration and discussion in this research. I examine the use of imagery as a source of movement within dance practice from a traditional Korean dance perspective, and extend this investigation to encompass perspectives that derive contemporaneously from Western somatic practices. A growing awareness of differences, congruities and potentials of the practical interaction between traditional Korean dance and contemporary concepts, philosophies and practices provokes deeper reflection and questioning, and offers to the field a methodology for the use of imagery drawn from nature, where the performer connects to elements of breath, proposing a framework for cross-cultural encounters with the imagination which is activated in the act of dancing. There are two major components to my exploration within movement-based practice in this research project, titled Mae Hwa. First, the inner state of being is conceptualised in terms of yin–yang energy flow, relating to the five elements, and reflects a more traditional Eastern philosophical approach. The other draws on anatomical understandings and reflects a phenomenological attitude derived from Western somatic practices and ideokinesis as a new approach to Korean traditional dance imagery.
You, Me and Everybody Else: Explorations of self through filmmaking in the domestic setting
The self plays a central role in artistic practice, as artists have long used their work to explore conceptions of the broader human condition. In film, the temporally reflexive nature of the medium has allowed filmmakers to create a positioning of characters, sharing emotional experiences with an audience. However, to position oneself in film is perhaps less clear and more complex than that of a protagonist. This dissertation draws upon the practices of filmmakers Jonas Mekas, Max Draper, Chantal Akerman, Michelangelo Antonioni and Moyra Davey, to discuss how key elements of film, including diarism, duration and place, can inform an exploration of the subjective condition. As an accompaniment to my own moving-image artwork, You, Me and Everyone Else., the dissertation draws parallels between each artist’s use of visual techniques and my experimentations in practice, to initiate an intimate unravelling of self. I find the acceptance of the banal and the everyday through diarism and durational techniques clarify a process for examining self. Likewise, the embeddedness of these filmic techniques within the deeply personal context of my own home, emphasises the importance of place in affirming; and reinforcing, undulating and shifting notions of self. I additionally note, however, that the forces of context and place uncover deep insecurities and strong negative internal emotions greatly impacting artistic voice. Here, the subjective self emerges through elements of my personal artistic condition, that appears to exist beyond the influence of conscious structure, technique and the influence of others. While the making of a singular artwork may demonstrate hints of the self to both audience and maker, the recurrent, self-reflexive making of artworks clarifies the unseen self only to the artist. Thus, I conclude that there is no firm understanding of self navigable through techniques alone.The artwork is merely the by-product of a process that recognises that the self is as whimsical and subject to change as the forces which surround it.
Images and imagination of Adventure
“The Images and Imagination of Adventure” investigates the use of the narratives of adventure in contemporary art practices, and presents the research outcomes through an exhibition and a dissertation. The term “narratives of adventure” is used to describe the trope of adventure that is herein argued as being largely inherited from colonial history. The exhibition component of this thesis was exhibited at the VCA Art Space in July 2018. It comprised of eight works: Projected in Gallery One to the left of the entrance was the short film Victoire which emerged early in the project. This first work was influential to the PhD development and it later informed Victoire-Machine, a viewing device installation that further explored potential modalities of adventure. The First of The Last Crusade, Scope, Lost and Found and Traversant were also displayed with viewing devices and along with the installation Art’Venture, all were presented in the Gallery Two in the center of the VCA Art Space. The final work that was produced, Glowry, was developed specifically for the exhibition and installed in the small adjacent space to the right of the entrance in Gallery Three. The practice-led research has identified three strategies that exist in contemporary art practices in relation to the narratives of adventure. Each chapter presents a different strategy, articulates the creative work undertaken in the PhD, contextualises it within contemporary art practices, and analyses it with a range of key texts. The first chapter, ‘Killing Adventure’, presents the first of three strategies: the artist adopting a critical posture towards adventure, and thus claiming that the colonial trope of exploration is no longer valid in the 21st century. This political approach to the narratives of adventure is observed and described in the work of contemporary artists, and enunciated through the work of Okwui Enwesor, particularly his take on the intensification of proximities in a global context. A portion of the creative body of work produced in the context of this PhD can be retrospectively examined through the lens of ‘Killing Adventure’. The work is contextualised in this framework, and then examined in conversation with the creative practice of other visual artists. The second chapter, ‘Adventure never died’, argues that some art practices develop a Neo-Romantic relationship with adventure, thus embracing or disregarding its problematic dimension and inadequacy. Within those contemporary practices there is a claim for continuity, and an approach to adventure as primarily an exploration of the self. This chapter contextualises the field of contemporary art by looking at the work of Jorg Heiser and his understanding of today’s art practices as ‘Neo-Romantic’. Once again, the creative component of this research was examined retrospectively in reference to this strategy and some of the creative works which fit in this conversation about the continuity of adventure are presented. The third chapter, ‘Adventure is Dead – Long Live Adventure’, presents the last of the three strategies. It has a much more playful relationship with the narratives of adventure. There is an acknowledgement that the ‘Golden Age of Adventure’ though colonialism is over, but there is a desire to play, recycle and reenact the material of adventure. The world has been mapped, the stories have been told: but now scenarios of adventure are used as a drive for adventure. The artists whom adopt this posture, and the creative work produced during this PhD that borrows some of the characteristics of this strategy, are discussed in conversation with the work of Nicolas Bourriaud, and particularly with his essay ‘Postproduction’.
Making Cake Daddy: dramaturgies to ‘fatten’ the queer stage
This thesis examines the dramaturgical strategies used in making performance about fat identity. The research responds to fat activist performance scholar Jennifer-Scott Mobley’s (2019) call for of a ‘Fat Dramaturgy,’ and attempts to further the field by presenting unique insights and findings from within the process of making new performance work. The inquiry is framed by my dramaturgical practice, and that of the creative team, in the process of making Cake Daddy, an original stage work performed by fat- and queer-identifying artist Ross Anderson-Doherty. Given the powerful influence of queer activism and theory in consolidating and galvanising the nascent field of fat activist performance—and the queer identification and aesthetic of the Cake Daddy creative team—I address how queer performance strategies can be used to highlight the negative impact of dominant, medicalised narratives and the societal urge to pathologize fatness and, in doing so, encourage meaningful dialogue around other aspects of the lived experience of fat people: the social, cultural, political and sexual. Thus, I ask: what dramaturgical strategies can be used when making queer performance that frames and celebrates fat identity? By analysing moments of the Cake Daddy performance, I articulate how and why certain choices in composing these moments were determined in the creative process. I draw on the fields of fat studies, performance studies (dramaturgy) and queer theory, and situate the work within the wider field of fat activist performance. The thesis also offers an important and needed shift in the way fat activist performance is analysed by presenting perspectives from within the process of making it. Of particular significance, then, is my position as a practitioner-researcher embedded in the creative process.
Holding space and taking time: locating quiet resistance through artistic practice
The research considers daily rituals, tactics and actions for artistically reimagining lived experience. Using a variety of distributed, site orientated and lens-based methods, I speculate upon ways that daily routines can be utilised as forms of restoration, resistance and care. In developing the creative outcomes, presented in conjunction with a dissertation, particular notions of feminism and postconceptual methodologies are drawn upon. These contribute to the imagining of ways in which artistic gestures of holding space and taking time might suggest more mindful and empathetic engagements with the world.
Traces, fantastical futures and the crystalline
Traces, Fantastical Futures and the Crystalline employs digital modelling and analogue drawing process to propose speculative utopian architectures. The thesis examines the relationship of the creative works to the German Expressionist and Crystalline movement that arose in the early 20th Century. Key figures like the architects and artists Bruno Taut and Wenzel Hablik, envisioned crystalline cities and architectures and proposed societal transformation through the use of glass in architecture to create utopian cities and buildings. The presented multi-discipline work exploits and interrogates the interplay between the physical and non-physical and postulates a biography and abstraction of the body beyond materiality through the generative constructive art process. Drawing upon a variety of precedent strategies, the creative work ultimately presents a speculative, fantastical, crystalline architecture as a digital projection of virtual space in an actual installation.
A Naïve faith in images: indexicality, silence and fabrication in the construction of narrative
A Naive Faith in Images explores the veracity of photographic and pictorial documents presented as information in the public realm, that is in the media, public institutional archives and broadly in historical documents. The research examines the role that memory and narrative play within discourses of conflict and the construction of histories. Specifically, the project addresses how contemporary art establishes and negotiates relationships between philosophical aspects around the manipulation of images and socio-political imaginaries (the values, systems and symbols common to a particular social group) to construct new narratives. Thus, the exegesis is based on three structural streams of inquiry, that of image interpretation (W. J. T. Mitchell, Hans Belting, Jacques Ranciere, Susie Linfield, Vilem Flusser), image collection and archival practices (Georges Didi-Huberman, Hal Foster, Aby Warburg, Peter Osborne) and an expanded notion of painting (Isabelle Graw, Gerhard Richter). Two historical cases are provided to create a blueprint, used to scrutinise the structural streams of inquiry, as they posed specific problems in regard to the use of images and image interpretation. I was motivated by their geographical, political and ideological relevance. One instance is factual and delves into the investigation of the murder of Viviana Gallardo, a Costa Rican leftist militant and activist who was shot in prison and whose persona was exploited by the conservative right-wing ideology of the time. This case is of significance to the overall project, as it examines how images are used to manipulate discursive narratives. The study follows the ways in which the narrative of this recent event was constructed from a multiplicity of interpretations, such as that from Gallardo’s family, friends, ex-militants and the generally uninformed public. The second case manufactures the story of Svetoslav S., a fictional painter whose life and work explore the role of art history in the play between politics, identity and the indiscriminate use of images. In this research, the first case study is embedded in the notion of the image as an index, covering the complexities this assumption entails historically and the consequences it presents in a particular context (Costa Rica). The second case serves to question and bend the latter assumption by placing the character within a global narrative that has affected the western historical construct. It also explores the role of the artist as a manipulator of images, through the potentialities and contradictions underpinned by an extended notion of painting, as well as the different identities that can be created from the mix between fiction and factuality. Both cases show us phenomenological aspects of images—the platforms and contexts in which particular images have portrayed events and individuals; as well as highlighting the level of engagement audiences have when interacting with different versions of a single event and how these have an effect upon the understanding and creation of history. On an individual level, I was interested in how differently I interpret and manipulate particular images—those that have an impersonal relationship to me—my connection to them and my subsequent artistic response. In opposition to this, I will show the effect that other pictures with more personal and sensitive subject matter can produce and how this affects my relationship to them and the subjects that these represent. In one instance, I became an interpreter, in the other, a medium or mediator.
Inverted Landscapes: Photomedia and the More-than-Representational
The Anthropocene casts a long shadow over this project. "Inverted Landscapes: Photomedia and the More-than-Representational" is a response to the need, brought on by the climate crisis, to conceptualise nature differently. Composed of equal parts creative work and written exegesis, this practice-led PhD fractures the logic of pictorial and semiotic conventions of photomedia, forming inverted landscapes that contend with the material and political implications of visually representing the Anthropocene. Through undermining the material semblance and representational structures of photomedia depictions of nature, the imaging apparatus is exposed, bringing attention to how humans, non-human nature, and imaging technologies are entangled. The creative outcome comprises three artistic projects: "Ambient Pressure," "Surfacing," and "Echo," which were assembled as an exhibition, "Inverted Landscapes." "Ambient Pressure" critiques how photomedia are used to frame and fix nature into an abstraction. To undermine the seemingly transparent objectification that occurs through photographic practices, artworks were made by physically modifying film and prints, adding occlusions during the film scanning process, and extending these material gestures into moving image. "Surfacing" enabled more-than-human agencies of natural phenomena and photo-materials to make artworks. To highlight correspondences between the geo-chemical materials of photomedia and earth processes, photographic film and paper was directly exposed to high-salinity environments and geothermal activities. "Echo" explored the affordances of photomedia by scanning botanical forms within environmental conditions that were beyond the imaging threshold of the technology. The resulting digital 3D models carry with them aesthetic aberrations that demonstrate data’s fragility and instability, ruptures that expose the imaging apparatus. Elaborating on posthumanist and new materialist conceptions of matter and agency, the exegesis analyses the artworks presented in the exhibition "Inverted Landscapes." Media theory and ecocritical perspectives provide necessary context through which to understand the intensive correspondences between the Earth and imaging technologies. Using the writing and philosophical positions of Karen Barad, Jussi Parikka, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, among others, the exegesis forms an argument for a more-than-representational approach to photomedia-based creative practice. This thesis proposes that unsettling representational constructs, enabling more-than-human agencies, and attending to the analogue and digital material of photomedia are generative processes for creative practice. Consequently, the material, political, and conceptual entanglements of nature and photomedia materialise through the artworks. By haptically manipulating conventional landscape imagery, enmeshing photo-materials with natural phenomena, and harnessing the limitations of digital 3D scans of flora, my research imagines new relationalities between nature, culture, and technology. I argue that the more-than-representational research used throughout this project contributes to a reconfiguring of how nature is conceptualised. The necessary perspective shift in contending with, and responding to, the climate crisis enlivens and shapes this project.
Investigating Mrs. Nolan: an exploration of G. C. Menotti's opera The Medium from a performer's perspective
The purpose of this study is to provide an insight into the preparation of a minor role for performance, specifically that of Mrs Nolan from Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera The Medium, whilst also hoping to demonstrate that small roles both benefit from and are deserving of thorough research. This study offers contextual information on the composer, with regard to his personal and musical influences, and an outline of the synopsis and background of the opera in question. It also investigates the social, cultural and musical climate in which The Medium was written with the intention of deepening understanding of Menotti’s compositional style, with specific regard to the musical and dramatic choices he made in order to create the character Mrs Nolan. With a view to understanding how Menotti creates and develops his characters, the score of The Medium is explored both musically and textually, with reference to the Russian actor and theatre director Constantin Stanislavski’s writings regarding character development and dramatisation, and conductor and author Donald Barra’s theories on musical analysis. In conclusion, the observations and discoveries from this investigation greatly influenced the dramatic choices made in preparations for the performance of the role of Mrs Nolan, whilst also supporting the argument that even minor operatic roles are deserving of and benefit from serious consideration and preparation. As a result of this study, the author was able to create a clear image of Mrs. Nolan’s physicality, her vocal tone and colour, as well as create justifications for her intentions, actions and her personal journey throughout this dramatic event. Reviews of the resulting performances of The Medium in June 2007 for Lyric Opera Melbourne at Chapel off Chapel Theatre have been included in the Appendix.