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Title: Embodied encounters : a performative, material reading of selected contemporary artworks by Santu Mofokeng, El Anatsui, Willem Boshoff and Johan Thom
Author: Thom, J. F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5358 4142
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This dissertation is underpinned by two related materialist positions. Firstly, following in the analyses of Darwin (1871/ 2004, 1859/ 2009), Barash (2012), Miller (2001), Dunbar (1999, 2009), Donald (2009), and Grosz (2008, 2011) artworks are understood as being the material embodiment of context-specific ideals of beauty. That is to say artworks fulfil a performative, evolutionary function, one that is responsive to the corporeality of the body and the cultural and artistic values at stake in the specific material context to which that body belongs. Secondly, my body is not something I have but, rather, I am this body. However, following material readings by Barad (2007, 2009), Butler (1990, 1993), Foucault (1967), Deleuze and Guattari (1980/ 2004) and West-Eberhard (2003), like the artwork the body is also understood to be a socio-culturally, economic and politically constituted entity: the corporeal body does not exist pure and independently from the values of discourse and culture, for the latter is always already materially inscribed in it. Accordingly neither bodies nor the artworks they encounter are postulated as isolated ‘objects’ but, rather, are understood as being relationally founded material phenomena that weave in and out of one another even as they (re)configure historically specific boundaries between them and the world they inhabit. In this dissertation I apply this performative, materialist approach and the methodology implicit therein to the interpretation of selected contemporary artist’s works including ‘The Black Photo Album/ Look at Me 1890 - 1950’ (1997) by Santu Mofokeng, ‘Man’s Cloth’ (1998-2001) by El Anatsui, ‘The Blind Alphabet’ (1991 – ongoing) by Willem Boshoff, and ‘Every Sentence draws blood’ (2012) by Johan Thom. Throughout the dissertation I will show how a performative, material reading provides for an interpretive framework constituted as much by the form, subject matter and context of the artwork, as by the viewer’s embodied experience thereof. To this effect I have employed two voices throughout the text: a first-person account of specific moments in my life that have particular relevance to my meaningful encounter with - and interpretation of - specific artworks; and secondly, a questioning, analytic voice that attempts to map theoretically the deeply nuanced performative interrelationship between the material bonds and boundaries at stake in therein.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available