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Title: Back-story in contemporary sculptural practice : from materials to incorporation
Author: Hopkins, Ana Rosa
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 3511
Awarding Body: Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2016
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This ‘by practice’ research project explored the function of back-story in contemporary sculptural art. It was driven by an ongoing artistic practice and resulted in a series of new artworks accompanied by an analytical commentary. Gérard Genette’s concept of analepsis within narrative literature was taken as an initial theoretical framework to test to what extent it might be applied to sculpture. Analysis of selected works by Joseph Beuys, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Doris Salcedo, artists who used back-story in the context of trauma, led to modifications of the theory to account for the relationship between artwork and its back-story, notably its expression in materials. The use of narrative in sculptural art to provide a storied reading acts in combination with the work’s biography, although the work remains non-narrative in form, even lacking a ‘main’ narrative. The study discusses the ways the selected artists disclosed their ‘authored’ back-story, through title, paratext, public biography and reiteration of themes within an oeuvre. Back-story invoked what Genette called retroception – compelling the viewer to look again from a different perspective. Here, the autonomy of the artwork from its back-story is upheld. However, I posit that reading the art work in conjunction with its back-story alters the viewers’ experience by offering a storied entry into the work, situating the viewer at the ‘right’ distance in terms of emotional connection, and extending the reading time allowing more complex meanings to emerge. Investigation through making was prioritised, conducted through a process of ‘improvisation’ that explored various storied connections within original glass sculptures. As a result of reflecting on the results of a traditional glass inclusion process in my work, a new approach surfaced which I call incorporation: the partial embedding of a material within another as it solidifies. This process is seen to embody the concept of retroception and signal the connection to back-story. The research contributes to knowledge by providing a framework for an understanding of back-story in contemporary sculptural practice; demonstrating how incorporation can evoke and embody back-story; and, creating a body of original work that provides material for further investigation of back-story.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available