The feral, the art object and agonistic struggle
Chelsea College of Arts
This practice-based research explores the nature of the feral, as manifested in an object and installation based art practice that crosses different border spaces, from the studio to the gallery space, the public and community space, to the unauthorised object in contentious space. Through this exploration, the potential power of the feral in radical democracy will also be examined.
The former British Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke’s comment that the August 2011 London riots were the doings of a feral underclass suggests a definition of the feral that I will attempt to reclaim. Whereas he suggested that the people who rioted and broke into shops were subhuman, I suggest that the feral is the inherently human.
In my objects the feral is found where wild and disagreeable elements seep out and disrupt the whole: the spillages and dirty matter produced by process that are kept in the work instead of being polishing clean; collected detritus that finds signs of primal nature within the urban environment; assemblages that allow the conflicting nature of the elements to show clearly and brazenly. In the installations these same qualities are found in the space, and highlighted by the objects in their entanglement with it: delighting in holes and grime within the white cube; playfully defending buildings deemed unfit for purpose in the community; leaving objects installed in unauthorised spaces until they, too, are condemned and removed.
Mouffe and Negri have sketched out differing visions of the role of contemporary art in radical democracy. However, the feral element of art, between the border space of the real and the metaphorical, does not feature in these visions. Like the formlessness of Bataille or the attacking baby of Klein, the feral possesses a violence that resists definition.