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Relational perspectives: a visual investigation into social and cultural relationships with place

Newitt, J 2007 , 'Relational perspectives: a visual investigation into social and cultural relationships with place', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This project uses visual art to investigate the relationships between people and place.
Here I investigate social engagement as a form of production within contemporary art
practice and seek to expand on aspects of Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics
and Hal Foster’s essay on the ‘Artist as Ethnographer’. While Relational Aesthetics
discusses the capacity for artworks to explore connections between people, this project
focuses on a situational aesthetic to investigate connections between people and place.
The project’s concern with defining a situational aesthetic is informed by the practices
of a number of contemporary artists who, working since the early 1990s, construct
various narratives forms using temporal and spatial media such as film, video,
installation and sound. These artists continue a lineage from earlier conceptual artists
of the 1960s by using non-object-based forms to demonstrate an active relationship
between artist and subject, a participatory relationship that is extended through the
artwork to involve the viewer in constructing meaning. The project’s theoretical
foundation is based on critical theory by writers such as Nicolas Bourriaud, Hal
Foster, Paul Arden, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel de Certeau. The six videos and installations that comprise the project exhibition seek to identify,
describe and elaborate specific personal histories and events that bind people into
communities and to place. The project’s form and content have been shaped through
research and personal experience with sites and situations specific to Tasmania.
Methodologies including observation, interviewing and facilitated performance have
been incorporated to expand documentary representation through video, sound and
text installation. The videos and installations focus on viewer engagement and are
produced as a result of extended research within a place(s) or situation(s) – in some
cases over two years. Through a process of discursive engagement, I have collected
stories, histories, experiences and information and filtered them into artworks. Each of
the videos and installations translate actual conversations and stories into narrative
structures that exist somewhere between fictional constructs and documentary
observation – thus creating a space for viewer subjectivity and interpretation. This project concludes that the connections that bind people to communities and to
place are precarious, subjective and in constant change. Furthermore, these
connections are expanded and multiplied through the artist’s relationship to place and
subject, and the subsequent relationship between viewer and artwork. The project
identifies means to navigate these complex and changing circumstances by
constructing situations, creating narrative fragmentation and by incorporating
elements of fiction into the artwork. It argues that, by incorporating fictional devices
within documentary form, the work can engage with a specific place or situation
without resorting to social commentary or ethnographic documentation. Instead, the
resulting work remains subjective and universal, allowing for connections to emerge
with other places, people and situations.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Newitt, J
Keywords: Visual Art, Contemporary Art, Relational Art, Relational Aesthetics, Installation, Video, Place, Social Art, Social Engagement
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