The artist as a multifarious agent : an artist's theory of the origin of meaning.
This thesis is presented as a written text and an exhibition. 1 Both parts result
from interdisciplinary research in writing and visual art.
Its problematic is the origin of meaning as addressed by recent textual theory,
and how that represents an artist's experience of this.
Here, 'recent theory' designates 'postmodernism', which includes
'poststructuralism' and refers, too, to 'modernism'. This is reviewed and
compared to an artist's experience, using my empirical encounter with art, as an
artist, as a possible example. As the comparison occurs in writing and visual art,
the latter is, at once, the research data, and a site of its investigation. And writing
is a site for exploring art practice (via a case study), and the source for further
Finding that an artist experiences the origin of meaning as far more multifarious
than it appears in recent theory, the comparison additionally proposes a role for
the expressive self in art's meaning, in contradistinction to much of
postmodernist theory. The typicality of an artist is discussed via a
deconstructive notion of exemplarity. And Derrida's deconstruction, which
explores diverse features of the textual process, infonns the theoretical method
However, it is not just an artist's experience that proposes a critique of
postmodernism's version of the origin of meaning. This is proposed, too, via
Richard Rorty's pragmatism, when that opposes 'realism' (which includes
empiricism) and idealism (which includes deconstruction). This thesis
concludes that it is useful (in Rorty's sense) for the artist to believe in a
multifarious agency including the expressive self - experience notwithstanding.
In moving from postmodernism's notion of the origin of meaning to the artist's,
and beyond, to pragmatism's, this thesis attempts to recognise its reflexive
dimension. So its voice (as the ambiguous index of its origins) diversifies
postmodernism's voice, tending towards a cacophony, without abandoning a