Dialectics of the hero: representing subjectivities : On the Possibilities of Contemporary Figurative Sculpture

Correia Goncalves, Joao Miguel. 2016. Dialectics of the hero: representing subjectivities : On the Possibilities of Contemporary Figurative Sculpture. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis sets out to critically reposition contemporary figurative sculpture through a re- articulation of the hero.

It starts by identifying the removal of the human figure in minimal art and with notions of objectivity, repetition and indifference. Here I argue against Donald Judd, Robert Morris and Rosalind E. Krauss, by claiming that there is a necessity to reflect upon the sculptural object and the subject beyond that which is produced by the principles outlined by these artists and critics.

Working through readings of Judith Butler, Alain Badiou, Hannah Arendt, Bernard Stiegler, Jacques Lacan and others, the argument establishes the contingency and polemics of the term hero, the way it pertains to the introduction of the new and how it coalesces action and narrative with constant negotiation. Using the philosophy of Richard Rorty as a scaffold, I propose in turn that the hero constitutes a necessary idealism for improving vocabularies, and along with Bruno Latour’s position on composition, that this can be translated into figurative sculpture as a dialectical becoming-object.

Additionally, the problem of knowing what constitutes a subject of heroism is associated with the formation of an ethical subject. I conclude, in contrast to Simon Critchley and Jacques Derrida, that this subject can be articulated using the hero strategically as a conceit. I also suggest that, as such, it can be realized through the work of figurative sculpture and the agonist space it produces.

Alongside this, the thesis rethinks the materiality associated with figuration in terms of construction, and elaborates on the importance of the hero to the post-mannequin condition of figurative sculpture based on how it combines invention with political determination. This is further examined by looking at the work of Isa Genzken, Rachel Harrison and Mark Manders, and especially at the practice-based component of this thesis.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Sculpture, Minimalism, Contemporary Figurative Sculpture, Hero, Ethico-political subject

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 January 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Feb 2016 14:03

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:54



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