• Sculpting with object-gestures: An everyday working gesture as an artistic proposition and a space to reimagine material resonances

Borowicz Richardson, Anja, 2022, Thesis, Sculpting with object-gestures: An everyday working gesture as an artistic proposition and a space to reimagine material resonances PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

I set out to re-think material engagement and manual labour, making the disappearing activities visible again. I see gaps in the way we describe physical engagement, in our understanding of what happens in the moments of material exchange.

My research came from my interests in the politics of labour, embodied thinking, and material practice. It was further inspired by changes to our material engagements, recognising that the range of movements at work and play is becoming smaller, and material exposures shifting towards immaterial. Manual labours that are disappearing from our awareness, being outsourced, replaced, or hidden away.

I focus on the act of everyday work as an in-between space where bodies and matter engage as equal participants of the action, where object compounds with subject through gesture. I propose to call this moment object-gesture. Object-gesture describes an action that already exists in the world — whether in a hair salon, on a building site, or in a science laboratory. By focusing on what happens at the interfaces of different object-gestures, I search for overlaps and resonances across the bodies at work. I look for fluid and inclusive ways to describe these interfaces, which move away from thinking embedded in language, categories, or classifications. This investigation needs to be done through practice, it requires practising or performing the conditions.

What is the (expanded) methodology to talk about a practice that deals with physical engagement and material exchange in more fluid and inclusive ways? Can these approaches speak for other working bodies and material practices? Can this working gesture-inspired thinking become a form of self-development, resisting or extending our bodily engagement? Can it increase our connection and empathy for other bodies, both material and immaterial? Can it inspire new awareness and lead to new or different meanings?

I explore different sensual modalities of object-gesture events, re-articulating their textual, auditory and visual dimensions. Drawing from the everyday and un-choreographed, from street encounters, archival recordings, and YouTube videos, I montage films of recorded gestures, dissect the language of instructions and explore sounds of physical impacts. These transcriptions act as experiential elements of the thesis.

Building on my multimodal explorations, I stage affective situations (Gesture Labs), where audiences are invited to respond to visual, aural, and textual materials of body labours. Gesture Labs expose object-gesture as a multimodal event. They do not aim to represent but rather seek to perform the conditions of material engagement. Gesture Labs are a space where I bring different academic disciplines into the conversation.

While acknowledging Fordist and post-Fordist discussions and traditions of Marxist thought, I focus on labour as an ontological proposition and as labour of living fire (Bruno Gulli). I refer to cognitive semiotics and neuroscience knowledge of auditory and motor systems, to consider ways of extending techniques of the body (Marcel Mauss, Maurice Merleau-Ponty) and enhancing empathy with other bodies. The notion of impassionate acting (Micheal Lambek), feelings and desire are recognised for their potential as affective spaces of resistance (Rosi Braidotti). Sound theories and body movement techniques (Frank Gilbreth, Rudolf Laban), object-oriented and material-semiotic thinking (OOO, Karen Barad) all form a ground that this research builds from.

I refer to artistic practices that engage with everyday objects (Richard Wentworth), the meaning of work as effort (Ehmann/Farocki’s Labour in a Single Shot, Francis Alys’ interventions), and those that explore analogue and liveness (Robert Ashley, Yvonne Reiner). These references function as points of departure, as means to explain further the differences in my enquiry.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Uncontrolled Keywords: embodiment; labour; multimodal; sculpture; materiality; practice based
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2022 17:25
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2022 17:25
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5077
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