Joan of Art: In Defence of Subjectivity

Watson, Michael. 2012. Joan of Art: In Defence of Subjectivity. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Joan of Art: In Defence of Subjectivity)
VC_thesis_Watson_2012.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (792kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the relationship between Adorno's 'shudder' and conceptual art, in the interest of conceiving of an art form resistant to societal and ontological 'objectification', as embodied by scientific pursuit, capitalist endeavour, and recent philosophical innovation (particularly in the work of Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound, and Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude). This art form, it will be argued, must necessarily be completely conceptual, devoid of any object which might become sundered to these objectifying forces. Just such a form, might be appealed to in order that the subject can feign an escape from absolute objectivity at the hands of the nihilising influence of science. Can the concept of freedom as an artistic declaration help the human to evade reification, in a way that can co-exist with accepted scientific findings; namely the clear base materiality of the 'subject', and the finitude of subjectivity, as signalled by Brassier and the absolute contingency of Quentin Meillassoux?

Examining the implications of Duchamp's 'anything can be art' admixed with Beuys' 'We are all artists,' the study draws, in its latter third, on examinations of Adorno's 'shudder' made in the first chapter, in order to conceive of a means by which the subject may overturn its objectification via the declaration of its own subjectivity even in face of the falsity of this premise. Where, for Adorno, the 'shudder' is felt in face of the artwork, as the subject realises it base objectivity (as a result of the 'truth' which the artwork, as perpetual deceiver in a an untrue world, imparts), this study calls for the shudder, which frees the subject from objectivity, to be auto-designated by the subject, upon itself, for lack of an artwork capable of otherwise invoking it in a thoroughly reified world.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Theodor Adorno, Ray Brassier, Nihilism, Speculative Realism, Michael Watson, Quentin Meillassoux, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2012 14:00

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 17:16


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)