Crisis of Meaning, Crisis of Form

Lobo, Francisco Sousa. 2016. Crisis of Meaning, Crisis of Form. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The purpose of my research is to investigate the relationship between crisis of meaning and crisis of form in art production, fruition and critique. This investigation is grounded on notions present in historic and contemporary nihilism, materialism and existentialism that state that a crisis inevitably occurs, through enlightenment, in the relationship between self-image and realist and scientific principles.

I want to extract the word crisis from vagueness and pathology, and argue that it can serve to describe a hidden trinity at the centre of art – there is a crisis of meaning, a crisis of form, and a crisis in the relation between meaning and form, each time a new work is set forth.

My understanding of nihilism attempts an extraction from ethics, and puts nihilism against previous roles given to it. The philosophical approach present in nihilism has been used either as a byword for the enemy of reason, or as a dark background against which affirmation (Nietzsche), creative evolution (Bergson), or existentialism (Sartre) can shine. It is my purpose to explore the notion of crisis of meaning as the essence of nihilism (Ray Brassier), and overview its active ramifications in art.
The field of form can be seen as immanently enacting a split between project and world (Bataille) – a split that runs parallel to crisis of meaning in philosophy. It is central to my research to investigate the locus of this crisis, in its relation to contextual crises, be it personal (psychosis), political (revolution), social, and crisis in the very set of criteria brought about in each instance of art.

The written element will consist of twelve short chapters with as many incursions into particular instances where the notion of crisis of meaning is set to bring new clarity to pre-existing fields, from critical terrains to specific media and art history.

The practical element will deal with notions of crisis of meaning and form, as well as with personal crisis, and will take the form of narratives about extreme states of being and the ends of narrative (comic books).

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Faith in art, Sacrifice, Illustration, Drawing, Comics, Bas Jan Ader, Philip Guston, Theology, Fernando Pessoa, Ray Brassier, Simone Weil, Fernando Pessoa

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 December 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Jan 2017 14:30

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:26


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