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Title: Chance encounters : the relationship between artwork, curatorial practice and audience
Author: Powell, Anna Catherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 6887
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates the relationship between exhibited artworks and their audiences and the ways in which curatorial decisions affect this relationship. It takes two exhibited artworks for which concealment is a major conceptual aim and which appear to subvert the methods of display that are common to most forms of exhibited art. It offers a detailed analysis of the artworks and an insight into the numerous contradictions they seem to employ. Through in-depth discussions with the artists, and by reading the artworks through a series of theoretical frameworks, I aim to highlight some of the problematic issues that face contemporary artists endeavouring to align artistic concepts with the practicalities of showing art. The artworks I use are Richard Higlett's Prop (2004AD) (2004) and Elaine Tribley's Hidden Memories (2005). Both are concealed as a result of the manner in which they are displayed, becoming hidden at the very moment they are exhibited. The thesis addresses the contradictions that are evident in the artworks' simultaneous concealment and display, and asks how they are able to function within an exhibition if they remain concealed; how they 'work' if they cannot be viewed by visitors to the exhibition. It considers their paradoxical alignment with an institution whose 'fundamental role' is 'to exhibit art and allow for its consideration'. Taking Michael Baxandall's essay 'Exhibiting Intention: Some Preconditions of the Visual Display of Culturally Purposeful Objects' (1991) as a starting point it asks whether all three of the elements which Baxendall maintains are crucial in an exhibition - the artist, the artwork and the audience - need to be present. It then uses Alfred Gell's Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory (1998) to question the possibility that the artworks can function in the absence of an audience, by having their own 'agency'. The thesis addresses the problematic nature of the artworks' presentation, circulation and reception in 'the Western art-culture system', and examines the artworks' ability to function as 'components in [the] networks of social relations' that are integral to that system. Exploring and challenging the artists' assertions that their work is concealed, it proposes that the audience encounter is central to, and crucial to the way that the artworks function. Employing a Marxist theoretical approach and looking in particular at Marx's Capital: A Critique of the Political Economy (first published 1887), it considers the fetishistic appeal of concealed objects and the effect on the viewer of having to work - or play - to uncover an artwork. The thesis considers the impact of the site, the document and the media upon their ability to function both conceptually and practically, and Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social, An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (2005) is used to discuss the ways in which social networks are set up for the artworks. It proposes that the artworks' placement within their exhibitions acknowledges their artistic merit and allows for their dissemination while also maintaining their concealed nature. It questions the role that they play within their exhibitions and the role of the exhibition itself as a vehicle for communicating and interpreting artworks.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available