Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Other than Those Who Produce Me: The Post-1960s Turn towards Social Address in American Art
by Dawson, Catherine V., Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2018, 207; 10689808
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation seeks to describe how social address functions in visual art, by focusing on the moment it came into being in the later 1960s and early 1970s. I look at the work of four artists—Adrian Piper, Barkley Hendricks, Vito Acconci, and Judy Chicago—whose practices came into maturity in the years immediately following the social upheaval of the 1960s. Though their work is disparate in terms of subject matter and media, these artists’ early oeuvres are unified by a shared exploration of the mechanics of the confrontation between artwork and viewer, which they literalized by making the body—often their own bodies—coterminous with the art object. These artist’ practices have often been held up as an example of social address, but why or how these works function as such has previously gone unexplicated. Integral to the mechanics of social address is the process of interpellation, through which extant structures of power are reinscribed onto and through bodies. But this process can also function a site for disrupting power, one manifestation of which is traditional formalist modernist notions of spectatorship, and these artists repeatedly bring out this disruptive capacity in their work. In addition to examining social address and the function of interpellation enacted by these works, this dissertation is an effort to describe the centrality of embodiment to the destabilization of the most rote binary categories across race, gender, and sexuality. The operative dynamics at work in spectatorial relationships are made visible through what Ross Chambers refers to as ironic appropriation, which intervenes on both formalist modernism and its Enlightenment progenitor, Kantian disinterestedness. These artists rupture spectatorial expectations by conflating otherwise topically or historically disparate themes and representational strategies to expose traditional expectations and operations of power as constructed, rather than naturalized. The individual chapters offer a taxonomy of irony’s different modes in visual art as a way to challenge social and historical exclusions. The very existence of such practices is a reflection of a desire to communicate with broader and newly politically engaged audiences who, at the end of the 1960s, were in search of ways of understanding difference and exclusion, even as they created visual modes of resistance that resonate well into the present.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Katz, Jonathan D.
Commitee: Otto, Elizabeth, Tumbas, Jasmina
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Visual Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Art history, Sociology
Keywords: African-American, Art, Feminism, Gender, Race, Seventies
Publication Number: 10689808
ISBN: 978-0-355-67924-3
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