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Title: Art and conversation : disturbation in public space
Author: Oketch, Francis Onyango
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Arthur C. Danto introduced the term “disturbation” in 1985 to denote artworks that confront audiences with the materials of reality in order to produce reactions that are continuous with those of real life. Danto argued that disturbational art dissolve the distance between representation and reality opened up by Platonic metaphysics and by the insertion of theatrical distance, returning art to its mimetic and magical phase. The thesis uses Danto’s conceptual framework to develop a critical account of artworks that use politics as the medium for their disturbational content by creating relationships with audiences that provoke the re-realization of attitudes, experiences and identities that have been suppressed. In Shibboleth (2007) by Doris Salcedo, disturbation takes the form of the ‘political uncanny’ and in the case of Domestic Tension (2007) by Wafaa Bilal, it takes the form of the ‘political abject’. The thesis argues that Shibboleth confronted audiences with “the return of the repressed” through a disturbational process of interaction with the space of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. Departing from existing readings of Salcedo’s work, the thesis proposes that the installation provoked the experience of the political uncanny by physically enacting suppressed historical, economic and political divisions constructed upon a friend/enemy form of relationship. Likewise, the thesis argues that the use of virtual electronic media in the process of participation in Domestic Tension radically altered the structure of collaborative activities by its production of the abject through the detachment conferred by distance and anonymity. The degree of self-censorship and accountability that exists in face to face interactions was nullified by the process of remote participation which encouraged deindividuation and anti-social or dehumanizing behavior. The tendency towards dehumanization becomes intensified when the artwork’s content is political, thereby provoking hostile and distancing effects refracted by contemporary geopolitics.
Supervisor: Catling, Brian ; Bull, Malcolm Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fine art ; contemporary art theory