University of Tasmania

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Relational perspectives: a visual investigation into social and cultural relationships with place

posted on 2023-05-27, 18:47 authored by Newitt, J
This project uses visual art to investigate the relationships between people and place. Here I investigate social engagement as a form of production within contemporary art practice and seek to expand on aspects of Nicolas Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics and Hal Foster's essay on the 'Artist as Ethnographer'. While Relational Aesthetics discusses the capacity for artworks to explore connections between people, this project focuses on a situational aesthetic to investigate connections between people and place. The project's concern with defining a situational aesthetic is informed by the practices of a number of contemporary artists who, working since the early 1990s, construct various narratives forms using temporal and spatial media such as film, video, installation and sound. These artists continue a lineage from earlier conceptual artists of the 1960s by using non-object-based forms to demonstrate an active relationship between artist and subject, a participatory relationship that is extended through the artwork to involve the viewer in constructing meaning. The project's theoretical foundation is based on critical theory by writers such as Nicolas Bourriaud, Hal Foster, Paul Arden, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel de Certeau. The six videos and installations that comprise the project exhibition seek to identify, describe and elaborate specific personal histories and events that bind people into communities and to place. The project's form and content have been shaped through research and personal experience with sites and situations specific to Tasmania. Methodologies including observation, interviewing and facilitated performance have been incorporated to expand documentary representation through video, sound and text installation. The videos and installations focus on viewer engagement and are produced as a result of extended research within a place(s) or situation(s) ‚Äö- in some cases over two years. Through a process of discursive engagement, I have collected stories, histories, experiences and information and filtered them into artworks. Each of the videos and installations translate actual conversations and stories into narrative structures that exist somewhere between fictional constructs and documentary observation ‚Äö- thus creating a space for viewer subjectivity and interpretation. This project concludes that the connections that bind people to communities and to place are precarious, subjective and in constant change. Furthermore, these connections are expanded and multiplied through the artist's relationship to place and subject, and the subsequent relationship between viewer and artwork. The project identifies means to navigate these complex and changing circumstances by constructing situations, creating narrative fragmentation and by incorporating elements of fiction into the artwork. It argues that, by incorporating fictional devices within documentary form, the work can engage with a specific place or situation without resorting to social commentary or ethnographic documentation. Instead, the resulting work remains subjective and universal, allowing for connections to emerge with other places, people and situations.


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