‘The Power of Naming’ : Co-option in Fine Art practice

John Lavell

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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At every possible level, from undergraduate study to postgraduate research and teaching, art school practitioners working in the field of fine art have to negotiate the relationship between theory and practice. This practice-led research project involves an investigatory journey in which I explore the terrains of 'interest' that have opened up, stimulated, and then informed, my studio and exhibition practices since I was an undergraduate art student. It is a journey that plots a shift from illustrative to poetic forms of creative practice. My central concern has been to understand how these theoretical terrains of interest interact with the practical production of artworks whilst remaining separate, self-sufficient entities. As a result, my aim has been to produce a doctoral submission in which the exhibition of artworks has an equivalent role to the thesis. In practice-led research neither should be subservient to the other. My thesis proposes that the most persuasive way to respond to my topic is through an exploration of the indexical sign (as defined by C. S. Peirce) and the power of naming (as described in Michel Foucault‘s critique of the scientific systems of classification, resemblance, signs and signatures). My chapters explore, firstly, my interests in natural history classification and the political interpretations that critique the history of these systems and ideas; secondly, my interests in the forensic theories that notice the physical signs at a crime scene and then interpret them as indicators of criminal intentions; and lastly, my interest in the productive conflict created through the juxtaposition of poetic artworks and forensic titles, a combination that either ignores or celebrates the indexical nature of my studio techniques. A period of living and working in Japan, where I studied the martial art of Kendo, was responsible for transforming my fascination with lists and glossaries into an interest in the creative tension between waza and keiko, ii between rigorous technique and intuitive freedom. The conclusion of my research journey applies a range of ideas about, and methodological engagements with, the power of naming to the realm of practice-led research which is, for this researcher, situated on the shadowy side of the poetics of exhibition reception.
Original languageEnglish
  • Dorsett, Chris, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Apr 2011


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