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  • Consumed: stilled lives and the pathologies of capitalism

Woolley, Dawn, 2017, Thesis, Consumed: stilled lives and the pathologies of capitalism PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The aim of the research is to identify pathological relations between consumer culture and consumers. I explore the relation between people and objects, and the impact that images have as producers and disseminators of sign-value. Taking the term ‘advertisement’ loosely I refer to Dutch still-life paintings as advertisements for the craft-objects they depict and the lifestyles they suggest. The body is also considered to be an advertisement because of the commodities with which it is adorned and the socially prescribed ideals that it reinforces. I consider social networking sites as commercial spaces where body ideals are disseminated. Different forms of self-presentation, including selfies, thinspiration, and fat fetishism are examined as indications of the recuperation of aberrant signs in the system of sign-value exchange.
The analytical methodology for this enquiry is framed by theories of commodity fetishism and sexual fetishism through which I consider both the socio-economic and the psychosexual dimensions of the relation between consumer society and individual consumers. I examine sexual fetishism and kleptomania by reference to psychoanalytic case studies in order to chart how objects are inscribed with value. Fetishists and kleptomaniacs endow seemingly trivial objects with a value that is incomprehensible to other people. These unusual relations to objects offer an alternative model for evaluating the value of commodities in a manner that might liberate the body of the consumer. The practical aspect of the research centres on the still-life. Taking my cue from Dutch still-life paintings from the seventeenth century that reflected a conflicting relation with material wealth, I produce still-life objects that reflect a contradictory relationship to consumerism. I produce still-life photographs in order to develop an alternative visual language for the commodified and objectified contemporary consumer body.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W640 Photography
School or Centre: School of Fine Art
Funders: Arts Council of Wales
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2017 10:53
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2017 10:53
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2727

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