• Becoming public(s): Practising the public programme in the contemporary art institution

Mulvey, Marianne, 2021, Thesis, Becoming public(s): Practising the public programme in the contemporary art institution PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

From the informational to the informal, the practical to the performative, what a contemporary art institution’s public programme includes is seemingly limitless. Despite the increasing visibility of this practice, it remains side-lined in institutions and discourse. Yet, I argue it offers a unique vantage point from which to explore publicness, as it is produced by the art museum and its extended spaces – the contemporary art institution, art school and performance festival – in a manner distinct from exhibition making and other forms of the curatorial. I ask in this thesis: what can the space of the public programme tell us about what it means to become public in the contemporary art institution?

It is my contention that publicness is both spatially and temporally constructed; we must observe and quantify the feelings, responses, actions of ourselves and others to truly understand it. Through a combination of queer theory, theatre and performance studies, I attend more fully to the sensuous, affective and felt dimensions of publicness, and trouble the abstract, singular public found in the
construction ‘public programme’. Challenging pervasive spatial metaphors of publicness that curatorial discourses often have recourse to, I then argue for an alternative understanding of publicness as an emergent becoming.

My understanding of ‘becoming public(s)’ emerges from the art museum and how it has been tied to publicness in rather uncomfortable ways, alongside close readings of specific moments during events I have programmed or attended that left me feeling uncomfortable, awkward, or uncertain how to respond. My findings are taken back into practice in a series called That Awkward Stage: Private Workshops for
Public Programmers (2018–19). Inviting participants to share moments of discomfort in their double role as programmer and audience, I analyse anecdotes shared to answer my final research question: what could reframing publicness as a process of becoming do to our understanding of the public programme in the contemporary art institution? This thesis argues for embracing the discomfort around publicness as a way to rethink the space of the public programme in ways that no longer take
becoming public for granted.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Other > RCA Additional Subjects > Galleries (display spaces)
Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Funders: AHRC [1795295]
Uncontrolled Keywords: Publics; Museum; Institution; Public Programme; Performance
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2021 09:43
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2021 09:43
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4823
Edit Item (login required) Edit Item (login required)