• Up against the wall: A journey in culture, from resistant to dynamic, encountering the limit in the process

Fitzsimons, Paula, 2023, Thesis, Up against the wall: A journey in culture, from resistant to dynamic, encountering the limit in the process PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

Now is an inauspicious time of changes in Ireland. Boundaries and borders are once again called into question by external policies, rekindling debates about cultural identity. Questions of culture become questions of human survival. Current geopolitics provide the backdrop for an artistic enquiry into the position of women in Irish culture, then and now, with reference to the institutional structures of patriarchal control that shape lived experiences.

The stark vernacular architecture of the Outdoor Handball Alley - designed to accommodate while controlling men’s play - will implicitly function as representative, in the Irish landscape, of the rules and boundaries that define women’s place under state and religious law. An important feature of the Irish cultural heritage, the Big alleys are primarily free standing, unroofed, structures built between the late nineteenth and late twentieth century in rural and urban areas. These fragile structures, at the edge of decay, are preserved in their community as carriers of a conflicted cultural memory and identity.

I shall be attentive to the voices of women I discern in the cultural histories I traverse in the process. The literature of James Joyce will allow for the dissenting voices of an active feminine sexuality to resonate throughout the project while other women’s voices from a more recent troubled past speak of the violence of which women were both objects and subjects.

Our bodies are not our own. The art works, in the form of live performances and photographic works, reflect on the effects of power structures on women’s bodies and minds. Evocations of women’s experiences of the troubles north and south of the border as well as the neglect and abuse suffered by women under the domination of the church over the procreative female body are an ever-present component of the works. My private body becomes a public body.

The performance work takes the form of encounters with sites and locations. Works unfold in response to the often-toxic alchemy of past events that lingers there. Lucretius’s concept of the ‘swerve’ – the unpredictable movement of atoms – in his poem De Rerum Natura, provides a conceptual framework to think about the artist’s encounter with a multiplicity of histories. The encounter is not random but contingent upon the nature of the elements at play, always already inclined to swerve in unpredictable ways, therefore always open to a future.

In the process I trace the Lucretian notion of the ‘swerve’ through several iterations from Albert Camus’ absurdist logic, Louis Althusser’s re-definition of an indeterminate materialism to a post human conception of an ‘agential cut’ in Karen Barad’s radical articulation of a diffractive ‘cutting together apart’ (folding) as an ‘Agential Realism’. Within the encounter of all these diverse elements - cultural, physical, philosophical - I sensuously inhabit a place, listening closely to the murmur of cultural memory. I trace a path from resistant modalities to dynamic energies, as an entanglement of entanglements.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Uncontrolled Keywords: Performance Art; Photography; Drawing; Encounter; Contemporary Art
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2023 14:37
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2023 14:37
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5438
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