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Visions of enchantment: Fictions of intimacy within contemporary art


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Barber, JE 2013 , 'Visions of enchantment: Fictions of intimacy within contemporary art', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The research seeks to create an innovative hyper femme vision of enchantment within
contemporary installation art by exploiting the magical and vicarious pleasure of perfume
bottles. The study proposes that hedonistic and ‘conspicuous’ feminine content acts to incite
prevailing socio-cultural ideas concerning appropriate expressions of sexuality. Through the
creation of an explicitly feminine mode of enchantment the aim is to progress pluralistic
perceptions of gender and tolerance of diversiform modes of sexualised expression.
Parameters for the research were established through review of the practice of Jeff Koons,
Sylvie Fleury, Mariko Mori and Pierre et Gilles. Surveyed as a collective, the work of these
artists represents celebration of intimate concepts of desire predicated upon sexuality and
identity. Consequently, they express a contemporary polemical aesthetic model for
enchantment that builds upon a legacy of sybaritic practitioners within the arts. This is
demonstrated through examination of the modes of rococo, pre-raphaelite, symbolist,
aesthete and decadents, art nouveau and psychedelia, which explicate exuberant content
and style. The research hypothesises is that the history of enchantment within art articulates
sustained, occasionally cohesive and non-didactic counter- cultural activity.
The research contends that the emergence of secular enchantments within contemporary art
segues with current salient philosophical discourse, which likewise seeks to re-enchant a
disenchanted world. An analysis of the genus of fantasy within fiction resulted in the
contention of fantasy as desire incarnate, and therefore an apposite visceral mechanism for
enchantment within art.
The researched is conveyed in the installation La Galaxie de Joy, comprising a suite of
feminised sculptures inset within a celestial milieu. Derived from perfume bottle designs and
sampled from creative styles and relevant practitioners researched during the project, an aesthetic methodology called superstyle was developed. This articulates a commitment to
camp tenets of excess, glamour, exaggeration and spectacle and manifests formally in
sinuous curves, dramatic posturing, playful ornamentation and glittering or strikingly
coloured surfaces. A heavenly milieu for enchantment was created incorporating decor
elements such as a cloud-floor, stars, swathes of fabric, deep blue walls that melt into the
floor, a luminous bubble-web centrepiece, antechamber, specialised theatrical lighting and
pink blush colouring.
The research project outcome is the exhibition installation that explicates an innovative and
experiential paradigm for feminised enchantment within contemporary art. This has been
achieved through employing the synaesthetic and affective power of perfume bottles in the
practice to explore concepts of excess, intimacy, pleasure and desire in relation to gender
and aesthetics.
This research project contributes to the existing field of knowledge in three ways. First,
through identification, analysis and documentation of a specific mode of enchantment that
has emerged within contemporary art. I describe this phenomenon as a fiction of intimacy.
Second, the project proposes an innovative thesis with reference to fantasy in the history of
art. The tracing of a historical context revealed a continuum of artists whose practices
flourished in opposition to prevailing academic and western cultural values and established
that enchantment within art articulates a provocative and sustained counter culture. Third,
and most significantly, this research contributes new knowledge through development of an
innovative paradigm for enchantment in contemporary art, aimed at increasing diversity of
sexual expression through installation practice.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Barber, JE
Keywords: Enchantment, intimacy, installation, feminine fantasy, fiction, perfume, pleasure
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