Exact fantasies : practice-led research into the materialisation of fetish power in contemporary art

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2012

Authors

Kochel, Jason Mark Alexander

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Abstract

This thesis is comprised of two parts: a Studio Research component with an accompanying Exegesis (66%), and a Dissertation (33%). The Dissertation presents the theoretical component of the research topic - Exact Fantasies: Practice-led research into the materialisation of fetish power in contemporary art. The term fetish conjures sensuous objects of fixation and perversion. The dissertation argues that the negative perceptions of the fetish derive from its history as an Occidental construction and allude to the colonial, racial and sexual tropes of its heritage. Focusing on the discourses of material culture, anthropology and art history, the fetish is reconsidered as a rejection of the aesthetics of the Sublime, incorporating perceived abject states located in the non-Western Other. The magical principles relating to the fetish incorporate these abject states through body metaphors and mimetic principles of sympathetic magic. Fetish power in art operates through the exploitation of these body metaphors, reifying non-sensuous conceptions of the world through the untranscended materiality of the art object. The studio research and exegesis present sculptural work examining the embodied relationship of the fetish to the body, through material metaphors of containment, boundaries and fluidity. Contemporary fetish discourse and fieldwork at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and Mus{u00E9}e du quai Branly, Paris, provide a theoretical and material framework from which to reconsider the fetish artefact. The sculptural work incorporates perceptions of purity and contagion through principles of sympathetic magic to explore personified qualities of the inanimate whilst avoiding figurative representation. The work is presented as a series of installation tableaux alluding to phantasmagoria and a Freudian sense of the uncanny, a sense of the familiar made foreign. This sense of misrecognition acknowledges the power of mimetic transformation that occurs through sympathetic magic, giving bodily power to objects that bear no resemblance to the bodies they reference.

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Thesis (PhD)

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Open Access

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DOI

10.25911/5d612025a3e45

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