Glittering orientations: towards a non-figurative queer art practice

Metherell, Lisa (2014) Glittering orientations: towards a non-figurative queer art practice. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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Contemporary art practices that have most clearly been identified as ‘queer’ have tended to be figural representations of sexual bodies and sexual communities. This thesis argues that queer encounters with non-figurative art can occur through audience experiences of different modes of disorientation and uncertain re-orientation. The discussion presents and develops Sara Ahmed’s work on Queer Phenomenology (2006) and specifically investigates ideas of ‘orientation’, ‘disorientation’, ‘facing’ and ‘extension’ in art practice in order to theorise queer encounters with art. In doing so, the research develops an expanded notion of queer beyond lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans identities; not to exclude such identities but rather to add to existing queer art practices a further troubling of representation and bodily uncertainty that is focussed on experiencing art.

The aims of this research are threefold: firstly, it is to investigate the value and limitations of representational ‘queer’ art. Secondly, it is to explore the possibility of creating queer art installations that do not contain overt representations of sexual bodies or sexual communities. The final aim is to examine how experiencing disorientating art practice might engender queer encounters. In the process of understanding experiential encounters the discussion critically explores the relationship between phenomenology and queer theory.

The research aims are specifically explored through the making of five art installations. My first installation; Club Cave 27 was created with attention to stripping away overt 11 representations of sexuality or sexual identity. The second and third installations Glitter and Scott Walker engage with troubling ideas of orientation and investigate the potentially queer materiality of glitter. The fourth show Desk Works was concerned with enacting disorientating encounters whilst the use of desks came about through my experience of feeling primarily orientated towards writing in a ‘practice-led’ Ph.D. My final installation queer:reading:room further enacts disorientating experiences through bodily uncertainty. Taken together, the five installations constitute a body of non-figurative queer art practice that is generated primarily through disorientating affects.

In making the audience ‘feel a bit queer’ through experiential, embodied queer encounters, this research also critically explores the kind of knowledge claims connected to experience; that of standpoint epistemology or situated knowledge. The enactment of disorientating bodily experiences through art practice develops a significant epistemological position (with all the attendant ironies of that status) by queering standpoint epistemology in a way that encourages queer ways of knowing through bodily uncertainties.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
April 2014Completed
Subjects: CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-05 - others in creative arts and design
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of Art and Design
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2017 14:04
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 17:20

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