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Models of models : representations of souvenirs, souvenirs of representation

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Hudson, SP (1999) Models of models : representations of souvenirs, souvenirs of representation. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

For as long as I can recall, I have been fascinated by the
history and development of cities as well as the actual
construction and physicality of architecture. Since
commencing visual art studies, a further investigation of these
fields has led to an increasing interest in the manner in which
buildings and cities have been represented: for example,
medieval plans and maps where conventions of perspective
differed from those considered "correct" today. In particular,
though, it has been the architectural model and miniature that
have come to hold a specific interest; an interest which has
had a significant and lasting influence on my ceramic practice.
These forms served as a starting point for much of my
previous work, and they continue to do so in this project. The research undertaken during my candidature is of a twofold
nature. Firstly, it deals with notions concerning the actual
experience of the city, and more specifically, the complex and
contradictory role that representations play in the perception
of that experience. The city is itself a representation - of its
"historically and geographically specific institutions ...
practices of government ... [and its] forms and media of
communication" .
1 The city is also the object of representation
- as in plans and maps. We use both in everyday practice in
order to rationalise and to project experience. In doing so we
come to treat these abstractions as natural entities rather than
the cultural constructions that they are. This project reflects on
the ideological positions we take in respect to the city and its
representations and, importantly, the paradoxical interrelationship of those positions in lived experience. Our
perception is conditioned by culture to recognise an image or
representation, which is then understood and interpreted
through our personal experience.
The second aim of the research involves an investigation of
the ceramic medium itself. Aside from the pleasure I take in
working with clay, it is an entirely appropriate medium for
this project. Clay has a strong historical connection to both
building and architecture and, as well, an established use as a
medium of architectural design. For several years now I have
been slip-casting various elements which are assembled into
architectural forms before being fired. The task of this
research is to test how far it is practical and possible to extend
the techniques that have developed in my work over this time.
These two areas of research have necessarily evolved in
tandem, one impacting on the other, so that initial ideas
changed and transformed. While it was always the intention
for the work to be exclusively ceramic and placed directly on
the floor and walls, the final arrangement did not resolve itself
until approximately half-way through the course. This
allowed time to be spent on the actual construction of the
pieces, a process that remains a particularly satisfying part of
my practice. It also left time for reassessing and questioning
which, on occasions, proved to be quite disconcerting. The
aim of this paper is to give an account of the theoretical and
practical considerations of the research as they evolved
throughout this exercise. While the project is based on, and exploits, notions of utopian
architecture and the ideal city, it is not meant to be seen as
either utopian or nostalgic. Rather, it intentionally operates
between these poles so that the work's identity and meaning
become unstable with the hope that the viewer comes to
question their relationship to it. As I hope to illustrate in this
paper, ambiguity is used in a number of guises throughout
the work in order to address the ideological nature of abstract representations of the city and the conventional positions we
take in relation to them.
Central to this project is the consideration of the paradox we
find in everyday experience where ideological, and therefore
partial, representations of both the self and the world come to
mutually define and delimit each other - a situation which is
reflected, in an exaggerated manner, in the particular
experience of the miniature world. The models used in my
work have been manipulated, distorted and displaced in such
a way as to serve as a metaphor, rather than a representation,
of this paradox.
The aim of the project, then, is to question our perception of,
and position within, the increasingly mediated contemporary
world.
In my research, I have been particularly interested in how
issues of the imaginary and of space have reasserted
themselves in postmodern analysis. Paul Patton in
Postmodern Cities and Spaces states that images of the city
play a crucial role in accounts of the postmodern condition.
While acknowledging that these accounts remain surprisingly
consistent with the city-experience of modernity, he goes on
to suggest that what they in fact present us with is imaginary
cities. These [cities] are not simply the products of memory or
desire .... but rather complex objects which include both
realities and their description: cities confused with the
words that describe them.2
Benjamin Genocchio, in a chapter of the same book, looks at
the spatial transformations in our everyday lives, and states
that it is now evident that there has been a marked opening up
in post-industrial societies to forms of spatial analysis. He divides the position of postmodern discourse into two
categories, saying:
On the one hand, theorists of the Jean Baudrillard genus
continue to chant their millenarian credo of doom and
gloom, convinced that the bastard child of Cartesian
space threatens to eclipse all semblance of the 'real' in a
series of simulated orgies in Disney-style dystopias.
Variations on this theme(park) can also be found within
the work of Paul Virilio, an ambivalent David Harvey
and a nostalgic Fredric Jameson. On the other hand,
theorists such as Foucault, Bourdieu, de Certeau,
Deleuze and Guattari have insisted upon hidden but
unmistakably clear possibilities for both active and
constructive intervention. Yet despite subtle or obvious
differences of opinions, what all these theorists have in
common is a collective desire to promote new forms of
conceiving social space in an attempt to account for an
eclectic occupation and engagement with an
increasingly segregated, oppressively functionalist and
electronically monitored everyday reality. 3
For a number of years, I have been attempting to engage with
the ideas of these theorists, as well as the critiques of them.
Common to all is the loss of faith in our ability to represent or
even experience the "real". The analyses that have been of
specific interest are those which are concerned with dualities
such as real/hyperreal, official/unofficial, public/private,
near/far, inside/outside - but these analyses present
interpretations of the city which do not deny either term of the
dualities nor do they claim a finality of meaning. A
discussion of this particular aspect of these analyses forms a
substantial component of this paper. It is out of many ideas and concepts then, that this project
emerges and operates, and it is here that the model plays a
significant role. These forms exist, like the city, as both real
objects and simulations, and, as such, they have a particular
effect on the mind and body.
In Susan Stewart's discussion of miniatures (of which the
model is a related subset) she suggests that because of their
intimate scale, miniatures represents closure, interiority, the
overly cultural; whereas the gigantic represents infinity, exteriority, the public, and the overly natural. The balanced,
harmonious world of the miniature is one of arrested time, its
stillness emphasises the activity that is outside its borders.
This effect is reciprocal, for once we attend to the miniature
the outside world stops and is lost to us. In this, miniatures
display a contradiction comparable to that of imagining the
self in the world as place, object and agent at once. It is this
contradiction I have sought to exploit in my work. Stewart
states that:
The miniature world remains perfect and uncontaminated
by the grotesque so long as its absolute boundaries are
maintained. Consider, for example, the Victorian taste
for art (usually transformed relics of nature) under glass
or Joseph Cornell's glass bells. The glass eliminates the
possibility of contagion, indeed of lived experience, at
the same time it maximises the possibilities of
transcendent vision.4
The miniatures (models) I have constructed are in fact
contaminated by the manipulations, distortions and
displacement of them, and by references to other forms of
symbolic representations and technology. By taking apart and
reconstructing elements of conventional representation and by
mixing the real with the imaginary, the factual with the fictive,
I attempt to highlight the biases and limitations of partial
representations, and by extension, question our perception of
reality. In chapters two and three I will explore in more detail the
issues outlined here. However, as this project is very much a
continuation of previous ideas, I believe it is helpful to begin
with a description of my early work, the techniques that were
used, and how these have influenced the current project.
The final chapter of this paper charts the course of my latest
research culminating with its installation in the gallery.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1999 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1999

Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2014 02:39
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2017 05:52
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