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Title: Herm as askesis : prosthetic conditions of painting
Author: Rock, Neal
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 2957
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2017
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This research project asks how a consideration of Greek herm sculpture can be put to use in exploring prosthetic conditions of painting. This question is addressed through a series of essays and a body of studio-based art work, undertaken at the RCA from 2010 to 2015. The written submission contains a series of interconnected essays, through which prosthetic conditions of painting are explored via Greek herm sculpture, in order to reassess the work of contemporary and historical painter’s practices. The first chapter looks to a history of herm sculpture, focusing on the roles it has performed around the age of Alcibiades, of Athens 4 B.C. This assessment is aided by Michel Foucault’s notion of askesis and Pierre Hadot’s work on spiritual exercises. They enable a shift, from understanding the herm as a physical object to the historical roles it has performed in Greek culture — as a desecrated object, boundary-marker, object of ritual and, via its connection to hermes, a means of interpretation, bodily passage and transition. I address a collection of essays ‘Six Memos for the Next Millennium’, by Italo Calvino, and his connection to The Workshop for Potential Literature (Oulipo), in order to understand the use of literary restraints as exercises which offer a preliminary guide to how the herm can be used in this project. Through Foucault, Hadot and Calvino, the herm transitions from object to an askesis — undertaking tasks that perform in essays and paintings. The subsequent essays focus on the work of Lynda Benglis, Orlan, Caravaggio, François Boucher and Imi Knoebel, addressed through contemporary thinkers that undertake considerations of the prosthetic. The intersection of material culture studies, feminist theory, disabilities studies and poststructuralism, offer a view to the prosthetic that creates a platform for a reconsideration of these artists’ work. The herm becomes a silent guide in this project, understanding the prosthetic as imbedded in ideas of the relational — sensitive to the way in which body and paint, silicone and skin can adjoin, supplant, intersect, enhance and compensate, between subjects and objects. By inserting the prosthetic into narratives that question the relationships between bodies, objects and surfaces in these artist’s work — and in asking what they can produce — this project explores and articulates prosthetic conditions of painting.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W120 Painting