Trauma, performativity, and subjectivity in art practice
Abstract: This is a practice based PhD of predominantly video works/installations which seek to examine, alongside the accompanying reflective writing on these works, a particular dynamic set up between the artwork and the spectator which allows a rethinking of the model of the subject's relation to the 'other'. This investigation which is lead by my ongoing practice (presented as six artworks) is informed and underpinned by feminist theoretical concerns seeking a way out of the deadlock of Lacanian thinking which characterises the feminine as problematic (the other of the other). Though I make reference to psychoanalytic theories (as well as the writings of Deleuze), I will not give accounts of this background (though I will footnote key terms); I am therefore presuming a certain knowledge of these theories by my reader. The thesis (as practice and dissertation) explores more enabling accounts for the construction of identity which move beyond the fixed, traumatic model to propose that the encounter with the artwork enables more positive accounts of the self as fluid and open to change. This shift which now proposes a more productive relation to desire and otherness has been opened up, particularly by Elizabeth Grosz and Rosi Braidotti, through a consideration of Gilles Deleuze's notion of 'becoming' as a creative flow, an active force of connections and relations. This challenge to dominant accounts (both psychoanalytic and philosophical) that characterize desire negatively as a longing for something lost (tragically and impossibly), allows me to propose (theoretically and practically) the artwork as allowing us to 'become' by creating affect, where, immersed in a creative ongoing flow of connections and relations we 'become-hybrid' through an encounter with the other. As my contribution to knowledge and understanding, my thesis explores this affirmation of a new subjectivity through a sense of self as interactive (mobile) in the process of viewing; an inter-subjectivity which allows a freeing of the subject from the impulse to complete the self, allowing an engagement that does not set the subject against itself but produces new possibilities especially in a consideration of sexual difference. My practice argues for an engagement and creative response which allows for a dialogue of difference as non-oppositional; sensuous and expansive, the artwork proposes a new relation to gender, as beyond hierarchical (traumatic and fixed) oppositional accounts of the self. This shifts from an account of sexuality as problematic (or not) to one where the viewer is open to a renegotiation with questions of otherness and difference that underpin any notions of identity) to become productive of fluid accounts of the self.