The supernatural sex: women, magick & mediumship; assembling a field of fascination in contemporary Art

Williams, Grace Alexandra (2017) The supernatural sex: women, magick & mediumship; assembling a field of fascination in contemporary Art. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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This thesis develops the concept of a field of fascination to denote the importance of curiosity in the processes of making in fine art practice. Through an exploration of the methods used in the production of my own artwork, including the appropriation of archival and found material pertaining to the history of women in the fields of magick and mediumship, it offers a way of expressing the material experimentation and selection that occurs in the development of an artwork. Additionally it references the practical exploration of how an atmosphere conducive to fascination could be established through employing techniques of theatrical staging, directly considered in my own exhibition Escamotage (2014). The core material of this thesis established from an interest in the shared language of ‘channeling’ within the fields of mediumship and fine art practice in which the body is positioned as a conduit. In particular, this thesis argues that the centrality of the female body as a ‘channel’ in the practice of mediumship offers a unique and unexplored nuance for the discussion of the materiality of the body in new materialist feminist theory. Through a theoretical framework employing the writing of Elisabeth Grosz, Karen Barad, Judith Butler and Susan Hekman the double-edged power dynamic of the female body as a ‘channel’ is interrogated and repositioned within the context of artistic production. This takes account of the recent re-engagement with the work of Hilma af Klint (1862 – 1944) and Georgiana Houghton (1814 – 1884) two female practitioners who produced astoundingly important abstract painting under the guise of spiritualist mediumship. Contemporarily, it critically addresses Susan Hiller’s practice as one that continues to interpret the periphery of the occult and interrogates the emergence of ‘not knowing’ as a descriptor of artistic methodology in the writing of Rachel Jones and Rebecca Fortnum. The original contribution of this thesis is the positioning of the term ‘claircognizance’ ‘clear-knowing’ within the field of artistic practice as a replacement for the concept of ‘not knowing’ as defined by Jones and Fortnum. Borrowing from the language of clairvoyant mediumship ‘claircognizance’ sidesteps the negative connotations of the lay meaning of ‘not knowing’ to describe the clarity of thought that emerges through studio experimentation as a form of ‘clear knowing’. Finally, the negotiation of critical discourses from fields including feminist theory, philosophy, the history of art and contemporary artistic practice provides a unique interweaving of approaches that is useful for future interdisciplinary research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
8 September 2017Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: New Materialist Feminism, Practice-led Research, Mediumship, Supernatural, Contemporary Art, Fascination, Magic, Women's Studies
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-01 - social sciences (non-specific)
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2019 16:20
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:50

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