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Title: In the mouth of the cave : subterranean site-specific writing practices in Britain, from William Wordsworth to Katrina Palmer
Author: Corfield Carr, Holly
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 9008
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Visual art's departure from the white cube in the mid-twentieth century precipitated what Lucy Lippard declares the 'dematerialization' of sculpture at the same moment poetic practices begin to query language as a situated medium. As sculpture becomes increasingly engaged with the absence of its traditional materials, the cave (defined by an absence in stone) becomes a significant site of activity among a group of sculptors in Britain 'whose work', as Lisa Le Feuvre, writing as Head of the Henry Moore Institute, recognises it, 'uses words'. This thesis is organised in two parts, the first developing models for reading sculptural relief in what Roland Barthes has described as the 'stereographic plurality' of the text. Katrina Palmer's End Matter (2015) identifies the memorial function of sculpture in Portland's displaced limestone, a deep and double site underwritten by the fossil record of Thomas Hardy's The Well-Beloved (1897). In the binocular blur between the two texts, a radial reading of Hardy's elegiac 'Poems of 1912-13', using Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge's chromatographic experiments with Liesegang rings and opera singer Margaret Watts Hughes' invention of the eidophone, prepares a model of the voice as a depth sounding apparatus. The depthless perception of the monocular cave-dwelling Polyphemus in Brian Catling's Cyclops series (1991-2018) locates the deep 'spot' in modernism's katabasis. The second section enters into the 'cave moment', the apotheosis of the present absence which John MacKay identifies in Wordsworth's inscriptional poetics, to perform deep readings of muddied manuscripts: Wordsworth's pencil-written drafts for the 1805 Prelude; Douglas Oliver's In the Cave of Suicession (1974), written on a typewriter in an alluvial tunnel in Derbyshire; Sean Borodale's twinned works Asylum and Asylum Oedipus (2017-8), recorded on a dictation machine under the Mendips before being returned to the white cube, installed as an enormous cavern of text within the Bluecoat gallery, Liverpool. Surveying the mouth of the cave during the last decade in Britain, this thesis also includes analysis of Drew Milne's The View from Royston Cave (2012), Alec Finlay's Global Oracle (2014), Maria Fusco's Master Rock (2015) and Hanna Tuulikki's Women of the Hill (2015), with brief forays to Clark Coolidge and Bernadette Mayer's The Cave (2009) and the culmination of Lee Ann Brown's project Philtre: Writing in the Dark in 2008. This thesis makes reference to geological and optical models of depth to propose that, in the dark of the cave, site-specific writing produces a holographic form, both a cast of light and a material product of total writing.
Supervisor: Mengham, Rod Sponsor: Newnham College Research Studentship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Poetry ; Inscription ; Sculpture ; Site-Specific