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Title: The transpositional art-object (Mezzone) : countering restrictive modalities in art production
Author: Martin, Shaun
ISNI:       0000 0004 7659 4888
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2018
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By acknowledging the characterization of my research and practice as a "complexly-woven artistic-existential positionality"1; which whilst activating my interests about place, mobility and identity; it has nevertheless been conditioned by my adoption of an altogether transient lifestyle. The perpetual cycle of certain restrictive modalities that accompany it - variously experienced as economic and spatial flux - has nurtured in me perceptible sensations of artistic constraint; in terms of both limiting my practice outputs and access to the wider art-establishment. In order to counter these problems; and intertwined with issues about 'belonging' and 'place-making' (Markiewicz); the aim of this practice-led research is to assuage my paradoxical desire to remain personally in-transit whilst simultaneously 'becoming' artistically situated. Since I cannot extricate my everyday life from my practice concerns; and in order to unravel and subsequently resolve the perceived connections between them; the initial strategy was to deploy a critical reflexivity about my lived experiences with various spatialities and mobilities. Thereafter, my objective is to establish a new potentiality for my practice; my 'axis-mundi' (Lippard); one which will expand my exposure to scholarly and creative opportunities across the entire art-institutional framework. Central to this investigation is the idea of an essential connection existing between a-priori elements already within the current (restricted) status of my practice and the potential trajectory desired for it. In the first instance, my aim was to formulate an experimental methodology which recognizes and fosters the co-dependent relationship between how I have historically acquired knowledge and its generative potential for my practice. My research identifies a significant gap in knowledge that adequately accounts for an approach to art practice that is based on my lifelong inclination towards grazing on and gleaning from anecdotal and theoretical information. In arguing for a continued expansion in the scope of art-research methodologies, the concept of Pragmatic Selection has evolved which adopts those very same processes for the acquisition of knowledge and; when applied to art-production; constitutes an original contribution to the ongoing debate about practice-led research. Following this development; and in order to better comprehend my perceived marginalized existential positionality (Madison); I necessarily undertake an interrelated examination of critical spatial theory and critical mobility theory. Although noting that notions of space and time appear beyond our full comprehension, there is however a general consensus that a fluid interconnectedness exists between them; which, when enacted through discreet applications, enables multivalent place-making. Importantly for me here, are the emerging personal affiliations with living in perceptible hybrid (Bhahba), liminal (van Gennep, Turner) and/or heterotopic places (Foucault); as well 'cognitive' landscapes (Daniels, Biggs). These include: the idea of a hybrid-liminal space experienced as the 'insider-outsider paradox', where the individual is contextually both the insider and the outsider at the same time; the idea of the trans-national subject whose position is grounded in a specific spatial-temporal liminal register; and furthermore; the idea of the contemporary nomad whose position is without fixity to a specific place (Kebshull, Braidotti, et. al.). Concluding that all kinds of spaces are potentially made transitory through the intervening processes of (de/re-) construction - as a type of mobility (Cresswell) - it becomes apparent that the triangulation of those very same ideas could be applied in the creation of sculptures that embody and/or represent a similar trans-positional state. Concurrently, I am constantly recording, reflecting and responding to the above theories by both creating and analysing a number of preparatory studies for a potential future application of them. By interrogating the tendency of using the language of binary referents within my work (here-there; this-that; etc.), which; alongside a corresponding investigation into hyphenated living (Bruno, van Dyk); I have conceived the physical manipulation of the hyphen as a type of 'structural' middle-zone. To that end; and rather than acquiescing to the normative expectation to exhibit work; I have met another of my objectives here with the purposeful creation and display of an original 'idea', which; latterly termed the Trans-positional Art-object (Mezzone); constitutes another significant contribution to the contemporary artistic-academic discourse. Furthermore; as a three-dimensional expansion of the compressed two-dimensional written form of the hyphen symbol itself (-), it has generated a space in which to 'house' my artistic responses to theory and anecdote. As an original approach to art practice, it challenges art-institutional authority by subverting the traditional hierarchy of art-object categorization in the model-maquette-sculpture relationship. In conceiving a new unified position for them, a (liminal) middle-zone emerges which acts as a type of compressed space and an expanded place at the same time. It advocates for the trans-positionality of the art-object as subject, in a form which is fluid, hybrid and ambivalent; yet it is fully grounded in its own potentiality. Inspired by observing certain forms of resilience and subversion used to counter restrictive modalities experienced in both the carceral context (Moran, Fiddler) as well as more commonplace situations (Flynn, de Certeau), I have successfully co-opted a similarly creative tactic herein. This in turn, has provided me with a point of focus around which a sense of becoming has been formulated. That is; whilst beginning this research with some reservations about my place as an artist (belonging) and the trajectory of my practice (becoming), I can now claim to have fully entered into that apparently negotiable in-between space of the liminal threshold. By having contested it and ventured through it, I have emerged into a new place by firmly establishing my current position within the historic art-academic timeline. Whilst articulating contemporary experiences about mobility, my proposition also draws upon both historic and current artistic and philosophical theories. These include ideas about: simultaneity (Bergman, Foucault and Bauman); motility (Kaufmann); thinking material (Cragg); and also the subjectile (Artaud, Derrida and Long). Correspondingly; the conceptual premise of the Trans-positional Art-object (Mezzone) is very much grounded within the precedent of Institutional Critique. As a subversive tactic; frequently involving the manipulation of a-priori elements to expose the often concealed hierarchies of power and mechanisms of control within the art-institutional framework; it has been successfully employed by Metzger, Ali Uysal and Asher to register their own counter-positions within it. Altogether, these artists have effectively enacted perceptible types of simultaneous trans-positionality; they have similarly entered a perceived liminal space; a middle-zone; a perceived space in-between their practice and the art-institution itself. They have fully engaged with and subverted the (art-contextualized) insider-outsider paradox and, in having ventured outside of the institution's authority, they have necessarily had to - as I have done also -simultaneously return to the inside of it. By claiming an original approach to research methodologies (Pragmatic Selection) and also art-production; my aim has been to trans-form my practice by establishing new potentialities for it; thus enhancing my motility and exposure to both scholarly and creative opportunities across the entire art-institutional framework. To that end, I have met my objective in the creation and display of an original 'idea': the Trans-positional Art-object (Mezzone) constitutes a new and original development in contemporary artistic-academic discourse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available