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The self-design of contemporary confessional art

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 07:34 authored by Toby JuliffToby Juliff, Early, J
If the 1990s saw what Outi Remes has identified as ‘the confessional turn’ in contemporary art, more recent practices have sought to further deconstruct coercive mechanisms of ritual and shame. Michel Foucault’s late examination of the confessional and its potentiality to form ‘the technologies of the self’ that break the bonds of confessor and confessant marks out confessional practices as the establishment of power structures that lends itself to its own subversion. More recently the ubiquity of confessional forms in culture and its structural relation to institutions of power have taken on different sets of values than earlier art examined. As Boris Groys has attested in a set of essays (2009–2019), there exists an anxiety of self-image and the consumption of that image that marks out a different set of conditions from that explored by Foucault. The shift–from the ‘zero-design’ confessional of Rousseau to the ‘self-design’ confessional of Shia LaBeouf–has been widely embraced by a new generation of video artist. This paper suggests that the previous oppositions–zero-design = truth, sincerity, shame vs. self-design = mistrust, insincerity, power–demand a deconstruction. This paper argues for the capacity of contemporary confessional video art practices to occupy these slippages.


Publication title

Journal of Visual Art Practice








School of Creative Arts and Media



Place of publication

United Kingdom

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Copyright 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

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Socio-economic Objectives

The creative arts

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