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Title: Figures of reticence : action and event in east-central European conceptualism 1965-1989
Author: kemp-Welch, Klara
ISNI:       0000 0004 2673 7334
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis offers a history of conceptual art as a vehicle for politicised action that goes beyond ideas of institutional critique and identity politics. It articulates a series of `figures' that relate to Vaclav Havel's essay `An Anatomy of Reticence' through close readings of the practices of five artists, from Poland, Hungary, and former Czechoslovakia. Taking as its basis an expanded definition of conceptual art that incorporates action-based practice, the thesis compares disinterestedness, fidelity, ambivalence, doubt, and neutrality as critical positions adopted by artists in relating to late socialist realities. A pursuit of truth that shares a great deal with that outlined in the writings of Alain Badiou on the Event emerges as key to drawing out the traffic between these practices. The introduction stakes out the methodological territory and outlines the current state of research in the field. Chapter One reads Tadeusz Kantor's Theatre of Events as a subversion of the Western trope of the happening, with reference to Mikhail Bakhtin's definition of Carnival. Chapter Two explores how Jerzy Beres's Manifestations can be read as a form of fidelity to the Event of Duchamp's readymade strategy. Chapter Three analyses the collision of affirmation and negation in the ambivalent figure of irony, through the Joy and Zero actions of Endre Tot. Chapter Four is concerned with doubt in the work of Julius Koller, as against his paradoxical investment in the idea of the U. F. O. The final chapter considers in detail the minimal actions of Jiii Kovanda, and seeks to go beyond the conceptual binaries that emerged in the preceding chapters, by a discussion of Roland Barthes' definition of the Neutral. The conclusion proposes that the trope of Neutral was in many respects the paradigmatic `figure of reticence' for the unofficial actions carried out in the timeframe of the thesis, which spans the period from 1965, when happenings took over from Fluxus in the region, to 1989, when Communism in East-Central Europe, and the Cold War, ended.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available