• Herm as askesis: prosthetic conditions of painting

Rock, Neal, 2017, Thesis, Herm as askesis: prosthetic conditions of painting PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This research project asks how a consideration of Greek herm sculpture can be put to use in
exploring prosthetic conditions of painting. This question is addressed through a series of essays
and a body of studio-based art work, undertaken at the RCA from 2010 to 2015.
The written submission contains a series of interconnected essays, through which prosthetic
conditions of painting are explored via Greek herm sculpture, in order to reassess the work of
contemporary and historical painter’s practices. The first chapter looks to a history of herm
sculpture, focusing on the roles it has performed around the age of Alcibiades, of Athens 4 B.C.
This assessment is aided by Michel Foucault’s notion of askesis and Pierre Hadot’s work on
spiritual exercises. They enable a shift, from understanding the herm as a physical object to the
historical roles it has performed in Greek culture — as a desecrated object, boundary-marker,
object of ritual and, via its connection to hermes, a means of interpretation, bodily passage and
transition. I address a collection of essays ‘Six Memos for the Next Millennium’, by Italo Calvino,
and his connection to The Workshop for Potential Literature (Oulipo), in order to understand the
use of literary restraints as exercises which offer a preliminary guide to how the herm can be used
in this project. Through Foucault, Hadot and Calvino, the herm transitions from object to an askesis
— undertaking tasks that perform in essays and paintings.
The subsequent essays focus on the work of Lynda Benglis, Orlan, Caravaggio, François Boucher
and Imi Knoebel, addressed through contemporary thinkers that undertake considerations of the
prosthetic. The intersection of material culture studies, feminist theory, disabilities studies and poststructuralism,
offer a view to the prosthetic that creates a platform for a reconsideration of these
artists’ work. The herm becomes a silent guide in this project, understanding the prosthetic as
imbedded in ideas of the relational — sensitive to the way in which body and paint, silicone and
skin can adjoin, supplant, intersect, enhance and compensate, between subjects and objects. By
inserting the prosthetic into narratives that question the relationships between bodies, objects and
surfaces in these artist’s work — and in asking what they can produce — this project explores and
articulates prosthetic conditions of painting.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W120 Painting
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2017 13:46
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2020 08:38
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2778
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