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Research projects: MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy

A selection of research projects from the MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy course:

Junaed Amin - Giga Shape

In an infinite body is grown: that you, that germ. An embossed, printed extension of its physic stabilised by its directionality, an infinite rebound, bounded towards a beginning/birth. And from that same shape that formed all of your arms, your galaxies, your air, birthed the chiral structure of your DNA, came your…

Yu Qian - The Universality in the Real: Lacan and Žižek in the Contemporary Context of Identity politics

“The core of a 'way of life’ is towards a core of the Real, of jouissance"

“The only true emancipatory gesture is therefore to persist in the search for universality.”

— Žižek, Slavoj (2019) Like a Thief in Broad Daylight

Is there any universality which can be considered as the ground to deal with the conflicts labelled under the term "Identity"? How would Lacanian psychoanalysis deal with such a question? If the identity of an authentic cultural community is rooted in the Real, which is fundamentally out of the representable, then where could people find that palpable universality as Žižek invokes?

This dissertation will work through these questions by focusing on several key notions: anti-essentialism, the emancipatory gesture, the Lacanian psychic registers (Imaginary, Symbolic, Real), jouissance, the sinthome.

Foteini Nikolopoulou (Kido) - The Animal Other (An essay on Other-Than-Human and Less-Than-Human Animals)

The entirely Other has now its own ontology: the ontology of the expelled. In modern societies where the totality of the Same reigns supreme, and where the Other seems to be far too forgotten, it is the work of memory – utopian in its character – that brings back the expelled into fragments that was once an unity. The Other is the Animal inside, the Animal (ζῷ-ον) refused in advance. And it has nothing to prove other than the concealed, although bare, truth that everything is one, that is nothing other than itself into everything and as part of everything, and itself as it is.

Marina Silvello - Curating Futurability

This research presents a consistent investigation into contemporaneity - as the defining condition of our present - which follows from the increased global coming together of heterogeneous aggregations generated along different historical paths and in different areas and which questions usual ways of experiencing time, itself, and history, itself. It is interesting how this notion of contemporaneity relates to both the end of a certain understanding of history as well as the end of a certain history of art. If contemporaneity in fact, has dismantled the predominant modern belief of a chronological and linear history, contemporary art as well cannot follow anymore the teleological reasoning of art history. However, the loss of the modern belief in progress, caused by contemporaneity, has led to a lack of futurity. The category of the present, in its self-reproducing presentness, has developed into “presentism” and it is conceived as the exclusive temporal category based on which the past and the future are comprehended. It is through this conception that we have suspended any ideas about a qualitatively different future.

What role artistic and curatorial practices play in this contemporaneity is a fundamental question which needs to be answered when thinking about the production of diverse futurities. Specifically, this dissertation offers an investigation on the position and responsibility of mega-exhibitions, considered as the main representative of contemporary art today, and asks whether they enable the forging and testing of alternative, critical, subversive perspectives, which could give shape to unconventional ideas of futurity or whether they only constitute the artistic playground of neoliberal capitalism.

Olga Tarasova - The Third Spatiality of the Emerging Art Installations

This research examines the notion the Third Spatiality as discussed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in “Phenomenology of Perception” and “The Visible and the Invisible” in relation to emerging art installations. Merleau-Ponty suggests that there is always a portion of being beyond what a subject sees at the moment - the Third Spatiality. In order to grasp the Third Spatiality, we need to seek the original experience of space prior to the distinction between form and content. This study questions the capability of emerging art installations to reach such a ‘pure’ experience and thus, grasp the Third Spatiality.

Cyrus Pui Kei Lam - The Negation of Society: Metaphysical Rebellion through Solitude

This research meditates on the rebellious value of solitude through Existentialism, Nihilism and Absurdism, principally the philosophies of Albert Camus, Michel de Montaigne and Arthur Schopenhauer. Is ‘solitude’, as theorised by Camus, the future of a humanity finally existing in a moral state of nature (Camus, 1991, p. 122)? And if nature is in fact morality, itself, then are we now merely wandering but not arriving at the absolute state of solitude? According to Camus, to experience solitude is not to remain in solitude, it is to reunite with others and experience what others have experienced. According to Camus in his essay ‘Love of Life’, ‘There is no love of life without despair of life’ (Camus, 1970, p. 56). To abandon what we have built and start a new one, to dare to give up and dare to despair brings true hope. Although the primary investigation of this research centres upon whether solitude is the future of humanity, it also explores the following questions:

  1. Is solitude a form of metaphysical rebellion?
  2. Does solitude renew communication between hope and despair?

Ally Gow - Feminist Social Epistemology and the Art of Lubaina Himid

This research explores the themes of cross-cultural communication, empathy, experience sharing and centralising the marginalised within feminist social epistemology and how these are represented in the work of British artist Lubaina Himid. Informed by philosophers such as bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins and José Medina, this feminist project aims to recognise that solidarity is of the utmost importance in bringing about mass political transformation and that this is best achieved through understanding between all those who are oppressed under the axes of patriarchy, White supremacy and class oppression – which necessitates communication across the intersections of gender identity, race, class, ability and sexuality. Thus, I intend to analyse the way in which Himid's art is emblematic of the transformative lens of perspective and what her work can tell us about the potential that sensitivity to others and experience sharing has for reconciling the feminist movement.

Lucía Ríos - Fate and freedom in Capitalist Realism

The title above is inspired by the title of the essay Fate and Freedom in Greek Tragedy by Walter R. Agard. Methodologically, my intention is to use the moving image as a medium, ideally to crystallize in the form of a video-essay, with the view to formally exploring the direct affective connections between cognition and cinema. I would claim (at this very early stage) that capitalist realism is only possible because of the cognitive aspects of the capitalist system itself. My research is inspired by the following quote from Mark Fisher’s Exiting the vampire’s castle and is, to some extent, in tune with some of the conclusions of my own writings from last year: “It is imperative to reject identitarianism, and to recognise that there are no identities, only desires, interests and identifications.” This and other readings are leading me to think of essentialism from a political perspective and the Christian influence that these attitudes reflect both within left and right winged discourses. In connection with this I will make an in depth reading of some of Georges Bataille’s works, particularly focusing on the concepts of excess, sovereignty and transgression, as the bedrock topics of my research are those of freedom, faith and desire.

Yiwen Luo - Jinshin Jiko (human related train accidents) and contemporary Japanese culture

In anthropology and other social science subjects such as psychology, emotions are assumed as something that someone or the people ‘have’. Those knowledges are common perceptions of emotions and some are practical. However, according to McLuhan’s theory on media, it is possible that those practical knowledges, themselves, that we have long relied on and trusted are produced and conditioned by the media. In other words, McLuhan thinks that society is formed under media’s effect and that, in turn, media are extensions of human organisms, including feelings. Similarly, Sara Ahmed proposes “the objects of emotion”, suggesting that it is those ‘non-standardised’ emotions which ‘shape’ the surfaces of individuals and collectives, rather than emotions that we possess. This research aims to decode a social phenomenon which is unique to contemporary Japanese society: human-related accidents (jinshin jiko) on railways. It is an investigation of the relation between emotions of the people and the social organisation of Japan, where emotions related to such phenomenon, such as pain, despair, and shame, will be read by taking an alternative theoretical framework inspired by Sara Ahmed and Marshall McLuhan.

Eva Klein - The films of Chantal Akerman and the philosophy of Julia Kristeva

Chantal Akerman was a Belgian filmmaker whose work deals with recurrent thematic principles including a focus on the maternal (either biographical or as trope) and a relationship to forms of language/meaning and address. Using Julia Kristeva's theory of the depressive subject, as elucidated in her 1972 text Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia, I expand on previous Akerman scholars by positioning the filmmaker as depressive subject via Kristeva's definition, and exploring the implications this may have had on her work and biography. Furthering this research, I aim to expand my reading of her films and writings through notions of breath and distance - recurrent themes in her works - via the philosopher Luce Irigaray's work on breath, presence/absence, and being.