• The kynic impulse: Kynismus as contemporary art practice

Doyle, Shaun, 2023, Thesis, The kynic impulse: Kynismus as contemporary art practice PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This practice-led research examines Peter Sloterdijk’s proposal, presented in his 1987 book Critique of Cynical Reason, to revive the tradition of kynismus as a counterstrategy to cynicism, described by him as the ‘dominant operating mode of contemporary culture.’ Defining kynismus as ‘self-embodiment in resistance’, the significance of Sloterdijk’s proposal lies in its insistence on the direct involvement of the body, conceived by him as material as argument. Kynismus manifested as a contemporary art practice, however, reveals fundamental flaws in Sloterdijk’s purely literary analysis. Foremost is his conception of the kynismus - cynicism relationship as dichotomy and the subsequent inability to conceive an autonomous kynicism, one that is not contingent upon cynicism for its existence. Addressing these issues by reexamining kynismus from a biological, somatic perspective and developing a theoretical approach based on the research of Matthew Gervais and David Sloan Wilson, this research affirms kynismus as a playfighting-with rather than a resistance-against. Testing the cogency of this new position not only contributes towards a kynic revival but also moves beyond existing debates concerning kynicism. Establishing the body as the focus of a practice that uses material as argument, I examine not just how kynismus might be revived as a contemporary art practice but also how an engagement with kynicism might re-model aspects of art itself.

The main conclusions that this research draws are firstly, that the direct involvement of material as argument and the body conceived as material as argument are paramount in any attempt to counter cynicism, the materialisation and physical coalescence of cultural alternatives being critical in cynicism’s undoing. Secondly, that kynismus manifested as a contemporary art practice challenges a perceived predominance of product value within contemporary art in favour of practice values. Finally, that an engagement with kynicism not only disables cynicism but also challenges, reconfigures, and reconstitutes the production of knowledge. In drawing these conclusions, I argue that not only is a definition of kynismus as playfighting a more accurate description of it but also that such an understanding represents a far more productive notion than one founded on resistance.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Uncontrolled Keywords: Kynismus; Cynic; Duchenne laughter; playfight; Sloterdijk
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2023 15:17
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2023 15:17
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5280
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