The open bridge: agamben, animals & art

Stephanie Reisch

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis attempts to critically engage with the subject of the animal in art from a Western perspective. It primarily responds to philosopher Giorgio Agamben's theorisation of the animal and his position on the transitory space in which the human and animal find themselves temporarily unformed and undefined. As this dissertation is only partial fulfilment of a practical Master of Fine Arts degree, its purpose is also to function as an interlocutor for the practical component, which sees the organisation of the theoretical enquiry closely aligned with the studio processes. The research, whilst seemingly broad in its contextualisation of the animal in art, attempts to identify specific forms of visual enquiry that concern how the animal is known and understood by humans via the visual subject. Moving through three succinct stages, the enquiry begins with Chapter 1: The Husk, which explores the formal and physical properties of the hollow animal body, predominantly in the context of taxidermy, whilst also recognising the shortcomings of human systems of classification. In Chapter 2: The Essence, the animal is explored as a metaphysical construct that places emphasis on the animal’s non-corporeal potential, that which includes its power as metaphor and ethical counterpoint for humans. In Chapter 3: The Superanimal, the question of what it is to be human or animal is explored in the process towards 'becoming animal'. Chapter 3 proposes movement and sensation as one way in which to rethink the animal subject, particularly in the style of Abstract Expressionist painting, where the artistic gesture is viewed as a testament to the purity of being that results when human and animal states are collapsed. It is in Chapter 3 that the studio investigation finds itself best situated. The exploration of the animal in trace and essence is developed alongside the notion of the artist being a type of 'superanimal', in which instinctual mark-making and the motility of the painted gesture are viewed as paramount in removing the animal from the distinctions perpetuated by the closed animal form.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMasters
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

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