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PhD Research

Porno-graphing: ‘dirty’ subjectivities & self-objectification in contemporary lens-based art, practice based PhD (2010 – 2017) from the Department of Theatre, Drama and Performance of Roehampton University (London, UK), supervised by Prof Joe Kelleher and Dr. Nina Power.

My PhD examines the methodological use of ‘dirty’ and non-sovereign sexual and artistic subjectivities in the production of art. It considers the use of life material, re-appropriations of pornographic vocabularies, and the discursive fields that fabricate the value of these images (for example art/non art). My aim is to perform a critical manoeuvre in shaping ways of approaching representation and its aesthetic and ethical registers.

I use the term ‘porno-graphing’ to group together and examine lens-based artworks where artists use as art-material sexual situations or sets of sexual dynamics present in their life independently of their art practice. I consider how artists act upon these sexual situations in order to make art out of them, the art-results they produce and their means of sharing them with audiences.

I argue that the artists whose work I examine use sexual situations that can potentially be perceived as ‘dirty’, and I used as case studies Leigh Ledare’s Pretend You Are Actually Alive (2008) and Double Bind (2010), Kathy Acker with Alan Sondheim’s Blue Tape (1974), Lo Liddell and myself’s project Daddy, I am man! and the body of our works jointedly called Tastes Like Cherry Cola (2014)

I argue that these artists choose and use these situations to self-submit into the ‘dirtiness’ of their sexual and artistic subjectivities and in doing so to negotiate how subjectivity is produced. To do so, they use visual vocabularies of autobiography to self-objectify into roles as both artists, e.g. assuming positions such as the pornographer-exploiter (the work of Ledare) and as sexual subjects, e.g. ‘perverted’ or hyper-sexual objects of desire (the work of Acker and Sondheim, and Lo Liddell). In embracing these roles they create ‘intensified encounters’ (Edelman & Berlant, 2014) between the artist, the art-object and the viewer, to interrogate normative and antinormative patterns of meaning-making and value-attribution regarding subjectivity and art. 

I frame self-objectification and self-submission as the main strategies within which the artists produce porno-graphing actions and discuss such strategies using Jennifer Doyle’s ‘rhetorics of prostitution’ (Doyle, 2006). To approach the ‘dirtiness’ of these works as well as their processes I use the notion of ‘negativity’ (as developed under the anti-social turn in Queer Theory). My research being practice-led an art portfolio accompanies the written part of my thesis.