Developing Productive Mimesis in the Age of Screened Oppression: Rhetorics of Flattening and Fragmentation in the Making of New Model Army
The thesis responds to Hilary Robinson's (2006) call for new attention to be given to the syntaxes produced by women artists, by proposing this should include fresh analysis of how women's invention and exhibition of artistic syntaxes are affected by the background conditions for their practices, which remain framed by patriarchal capitalism.
In discussing the latter, the thesis analyses different feminist responses to patriarchy. The text proposes to synthesise aspects of Deleuzian and standpoint feminisms in order to account for patriarchal capitalism, how it particularly works to oppress women and how women artists respond. In so doing, the thesis identifies and debates the embodied screen and women's unpaid reproductive and domestic labour as the key, insidious, dualistic, late capitalist technology for the ongoing subjugation of women - including women's desires and gazes - and the maintenance of their psychic and material inequality.
The text draws from my lived experiences as a working, single mother artist emerging from a working-class background. The text discusses how the figurative sculptures in my ongoing series New Model Army (2012 - ongoing) embody / hold / carry and seek to overcome class and gender based inequality and institutional silences surrounding it. The thesis analyses inequalities experienced by women who contend with the enduring, marginalising effects of combining employment, art practice, motherhood and domestic and reproductive labour relative to an art world which retains patriarchal frameworks (Robinson, 2006). In contesting and overcoming these frameworks, the New Model Army works insist upon a bodily and ocular gaze as a "two-way relation" (Coleman and Ringrose, 2013) otherwise entirely denied by patriarchal capitalism.
In developing this response, the thesis analyses my New Model Army works relative to art works made by women artists in the 1960s and contemporaneously, such as VALIE EXPORT, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Martha Rosler, Hannah Wilke, Louise Bourgeois, Fiona Banner, Vanessa Beecroft, Sarah Lucas and others. The thesis argues that correspondences and differences in these artists adaptation of patriarchal techniques of visual fragmentation and flattening, originally used to commodify women via their image, encourage overcoming of women's screened oppression.
Drawing on recent analyses by Friedberg, Wasson and others, the text considers the problems caused by psychoanalytic approaches in early film theories (Laura Mulvey, Mary-Anne Doane) and how these block the construction of new knowledges of how screened oppression works in tandem with reproductive and domestic labour to psychically and materially oppress women, whilst also obstructing new valuation of the subversive responses generated by women artists.
This idea is considered relative to Robinson's rationale for productive mimesis, including her re-framing of Luce Irigaray's work, her morphological approach to the symbolic mediation of women's oppression and her analysis of hysteria. The thesis develops Robinson's analysis of productive mimesis, proposing new terms for describing how women's sculptural syntaxes, involving flattening and fragmentation, engender disruptive, affective relations which contribute to women's alternative becoming and social transformation.