Becoming Object: Positioning a Feminist Art Practice
Stupart, Linda. 2017. Becoming Object: Positioning a Feminist Art Practice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]
Abstract or Description
This thesis considers new possibilities for the object as a site of emancipation from and resistance to neoliberal models of subjectivity. In particular, I propose new queer and feminist object positions and practices as potentially rupturing the matrices of taste, labour, identity, and subjectivity as they are reproduced in both the material form (the institutional display and trade of art objects) and thematic content of contemporary art, particularly in ‘the West’.
The first chapter critiques the objectification qua subject production of neoliberal capitalism, exemplified in the mechanisms of Human Resources Management (HRM) particularly within the university. The chapter also begins to posit queer, trans and non-binary (1) bodies as outside of this proper subject production, as (abject) objects that break the flow of capitalism.
The second chapter critiques ‘participatory practice’, exemplified here by Tino Sehgal, Renzo Martens and Santiago Sierra, as a practice which objectifies people-as-artistic-material under the guise of the production of empathy, experience, emotion and intersubjectivity. I argue that participatory practice is melancholic in that it is a terminal mourning for the lost art object of 1968,(2) which fails to recognise this loss, thus destroying itself as art dissolves into capitalist life. I suggest that resistance to this process might happen at the site of the body-as-material, in the voice and actions of the worker-participant who constitutes the artwork.
The third chapter queers the melancholia of the participatory artwork through the figure of the zombie, who dies (even commits suicide) and then returns to life and to rebellion. The chapter proposes ‘undead sex acts’ as sex acts sited in abjection and/or objecthood which challenge the reproductive logics of straight sex, as well as the insistence on sex as an act situated in the realm of the proper sexual subject, which excludes and incarcerates those who fall outside of this delineation.
(1) Non-binary’ refers to people whose gender lies outside of male and female binaries.