Shadow Boxing: Governmentality, Performativity & Critique in Contemporary Art Practice

Nimarkoh, Virginia. 2006. Shadow Boxing: Governmentality, Performativity & Critique in Contemporary Art Practice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Via Foucault's notion of governmentality, the thesis examines the impact of privatisation on contemporary art practice and considers the implications for critique under such conditions.

I take up Brian Wallis' link between governmentality and the use of government subsidy and regulation as means of social control. I consider the effects of bureaucratisation on publicly funded art in America during the Reagan/Bush era, and the implications for `alternative' practice as a mode of dissent.

Via Foucault's notion of critique as inherently paradoxical, dependent on power and reflexive, I examine Miwon Kwon's observation of the politically motivated artist's complicity within art world power relations. Using the 1993 Whitney Biennial as a case study, I discuss how the reformist strategies of alternative practice conflict with notions of autonomy, resistance and dissent.

In response to this situation, I discuss contemporary artist David Hammons; specifically, aspects of his practice that confuse the relation between the work, its documentation and dissemination. Hammons' practice relates to Hal Foster's proposal for reflexivity within critique, which I link to Judith Butler's notion of `the performative'. Does Hammons' modus operandi circumvent the pitfalls that Kwon outlines?

In my art practice, I use photography, curating, publishing and writing as modes of production. A major concern has been the tenability of the artwork as a social document. I also explore the relation between high and low culture; as such, aspects of the `everyday' often feature within my practice.

Current work examines the idea of urban municipal park as a type of utopia. To me, such parks are socially diverse - in terms of class, race, gender, age, physical ability, etc. Equally, the park is one of the few urban spaces where it is socially acceptable to stop, and do nothing. I propose the municipal park as an antidote to the frenetic, consumer-led city.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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contemporary art practice, privatisation, governmentality, government subsidy, bureaucratisation, municipal parks

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Date Deposited:

22 May 2020 13:18

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:24


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