Statement of responsibility: Rory Joseph Harron
Contemporary western societies are in a state of flux approaching crisis; elected governments appear dictated to by private interests while employment appears increasingly precarious. Crippling poverty is rife across the world while a global war over resources is perpetuated under the guise of freedom. The potential of art, the art world and the artist within this matrix may appear an entirely indulgent debate. However, humanity associates the field with some of its greatest achievements. Considering this, it must have some agency to affect consciousness and social change. I did not hold this outlook at the outset of the research. It was instigated from a perspective that saw the loci of art as limited in their agency to effect social and political change. Considering this, it set itself the task of discovering a potent artist exit from the dominant model of art and its underlying hierarchies of values and societal functions. The research is a practical and conceptual search for an alternative model of art. Taking inspiration from Paolo Virno’s political strategy of exodus (Virno, 2004: 70), the research addresses and quantifies the artist exit from art, the art world and authorship. It deploys a multimethodology which consists of a theoretical/ investigative enquiry, reflexive experimental art production, participant-observation and auto-ethnographic writing. The written thesis develops a historical, cultural and geographic inquiry through a phenomenological and discursive approach. The art production includes personal, ambiguous work alongside experimental, site-specific interventions and collaborations with a series of artist-activist and activist groups. Like the nation state and the museum, our conception of the artist is ‘an ideological product’ of the Enlightenment (Foucault, 1984: 119). Karl Marx foresaw art as an activity that everyone did in the Communist society (Marx, 1978: 160) and Joseph Beuys argued that every human being is an artist (Beuys, 1992: 902). Seeking to develop upon such thought, the thesis argues for the artist exit from conventional authorship and simultaneous affirmation of an egalitarian mode of art production and distribution. The double movement is critical to avoid slipping into a nihilist vacuum. Following the logic of the Salon des Refusés that heralded the emergence of the avant-garde in the 19th century, the thesis should manifest in exhibitions wherein anyone can exhibit. In so doing, it seeks to problematize the hierarchy within art and the alienation and identity divisions between artists and non-artists. Though theorised, the thesis remains dormant knowledge. The motives for this thesis is to incrementally further the egalitarian drive through fostering the agency of the many in art discourse, practice and research. Inspired by Adorno’s negative dialectics, this would strive to be a non-identity art. Adorno’s non-identity thought rejects strong self–identification alongside a commitment to egalitarianism. As it demands ‘thinking against itself’ (Adorno, 1973: 365), the proposed thesis is not fixed or dogmatic; indeed it will be negated at the close. Ultimately, the theorisation of a non-identity art is more so a polemical and tentative hypothesis to engender a reconsideration of the authorship and ownership of the field of art. The application of negation, non-identity and the negative dialectical method in art research is the original contribution to knowledge. Considering this, the method of the study is as important as its content.
PhD Glasgow School of Art 2013
xxvi, 214 p. : col. ill.