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  • Tracing loss, touching absence

Rocha Watt, Dionea, 2017, Thesis, Tracing loss, touching absence PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This research considers an artist’s encounter with works of art that carry or evoke the affective traces of an experience of loss. Examining images, photographs and sculptural objects and installations that inscribe and in turn expose absence in presence, this research through writing as a practice simultaneously investigates and performs the work as a response to loss. The thesis proposes that the work of art evokes loss by materialising absence. The work of art, like the work of mourning, works by inscribing a trace of the affective experience – the absence of the presence of the other. It is through the affective materiality of the work of art that we come to sense loss; when confronted with, and wounded by, the inscription of absence and its powerful relation to time.
Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, the study shows how loss can silence but also move us to create a new language when existing forms of representation fail to signify. Shifting between asignification and signification, the new poetic language carries an imprint of the body; it reconnects to affects to inscribe loss. In the languages of writing, photography and sculpture, I suggest, art attempts to give shape to what cannot be said, to what cannot be shown, to what resists representation.
Through close readings of works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Louise Bourgeois, the thesis suggests that by resisting representation these artists create works in which textile materials indicate a fundamental encounter with a material sign that gives rise to affects. I analyse works in which fabric is infused with the trace of an absent other. The analysis of contemporary works rubs against the narratives of the origins of art in the ‘Corinthian Maid’ and in the history of prehistoric handprints on cave walls, both of which reveal the gesture of inscribing a presence that anticipates absence. The study draws on philosophy to consider that what is inscribed is not only the absence of a presence but existence; what is inscribed is the vestige or trace of a ‘passing through the world’.
The research is generated by a transformative encounter with loss and with art that invites yet resists interpretation; an affective encounter through which what is other can touch, and what touches can be thought. Art, I suggest (after Deleuze), can move us to recover the creative potency of thought in order to inscribe the singularity of the encounter. To write through loss is to write what is impossible to represent and yet insists on being written.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W190 Fine Art not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2017 16:06
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2017 16:06
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2846

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