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Title: Pragmatics of attachment and detachment : medium (un)specificity as material agency in contemporary art
Author: Bristow, Maxine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 2739
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2016
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This research arises out of my situated experience and the subsequent indeterminate positioning of my practice in-between the traditional disciplinary fields of textiles and fine art. Through a body of studio enquiry and accompanying theoretical and reflective commentary, the research questions whether a practice and knowledge base that is historically grounded in the interrogation of medium specific conventions can continue to be viable within a post medium/ postmodern contemporary art context. Implicit within this are two further considerations concerning the relationship between aesthetic and extra-aesthetic contexts and the tensions between subjective and material agency that arise in negotiating these positions. Through a sculptural and installational practice I propose a constellatory opening up of textile in conjunction with other materials, in terms of material agency and ‘productive indeterminacy’, where boundaries become blurred, meaning is unable to settle and fundamental categorical divisions between subject and object are destabilised. The processual inter-relational model of ‘attachment/detachment’ is offered as a conceptual framework and overarching practice methodology that maintains these productive tensions and opens up a complexity through which the medium specific can be mapped in a fluid and fragmentary way. Three interdisciplinary concepts; ‘camouflage’ (Neal Leach/architecture), mimetic comportment (Theodor Adorno/philosophy) and ‘complicity’ (Johanna Drucker/contemporary art) provide theoretical models which allow for assimilation and differentiation and embodied adaptive behaviour. Drawing particular reference from Adorno’s notion of mimetic comportment, the research involves a mode of behaviour that actively opens up to alterity and returns authority to the indeterminacy of the aesthetic encounter in a way that overturns the centrality of the subject. This is manifest through a range of practice strategies - ‘thingness’, ‘staging’ and the confluence of ‘sensuous immediacy and corporeal containment’ - which forge connections where distinctions remain mutable and mobilise a productive tension between subjective attachment and detachment. The research takes the ‘affective turn’, and increasing interest in the agency of material across the arts, humanities and social sciences over the course of the last decade, as contexts which mark a shift away from concerns with signification and which focus instead on the corporeal intensities of material/matter. Acknowledging the critical currency afforded to textile in terms of signifying agency, the project is notable in placing an emphasis on materially embodied experience that privileges aesthetic artifice, complicit formalism and an ambiguous abstract sculptural language over more overt strategies of representation. The research offers a reinscription of medium specificity in terms of material agency, where contrary to modernist conceptions of self-contained aesthetic autonomy there is a simultaneous concern with the distinct material properties of the medium and what they do in the social world. The research reveals that it is the ontological condition of textile as simultaneously social and material that has paradoxically accounted for its historical cultural ambivalence and its cultural significance. Moreover, it demonstrates that it is the interweaving of the sensuous and semantic so effectively mobilised through textile that gives rise to its affective indeterminacy. This affords it agential capacity as a transformative sensuous mode of knowledge production and artistic medium where boundaries between subject and object are destabilised and aesthetic considerations can be continuous with an engagement with social, historical and cultural contexts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Art ; Sculpture