University of Tasmania

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The referencing of 'stringed things' of belief by contemporary artists

posted on 2023-05-26, 17:42 authored by Mulford, TO
The purpose of this study has been to examine how contemporary artists reference traditional 'stringed things' of belief. The term 'stringed things' includes traditional objects such as prayer strands, armbands, necklaces and contemporary works constructed of natural and synthetic materials. Belief encompasses religious and cosmological world views. The emphasis is on art of the Pacific Rim in order to limit the parameters for a study of this nature. This is the region in which the researcher is based, and as such, the artists and their work were more easily accessible. Traditionally, string was a metaphor for 'connectedness', reflecting the ties that bound a community together. In the contemporary context, it has become a way of expressing links and negotiations of identity across cultures. The strongest defining characteristic of contemporary references to 'stringed things' of belief is 'in-betweeness', a dynarpic condition where interplay occurs. Inbetweeness resonates throughout. Identity for some contemporary artists is complex and this complexity is reflected in the struggle to define it. Many find themselves in-between cultures and histories; many of the forms are crossovers between art and craft. The gallery is a powerful agent in cross-cultural negotiation and provides the stage where artists navigate their positions. This thesis begins with a comparative examination of traditional 'stringed things', identifying recurring themes, which in turn, provides a lens through which to examine contemporary art that references these objects. A crucial finding of this thesis was that contemporary art response is strongly motivated by the difficulties associated with the study of traditional 'stringed things', such as inaccessibility, historical bias, loss and silence. Contemporary artists reference 'stringed things' as aesthetic forms and as carriers of meaning. Artists' responses reflect entangled histories and range from the extension of original and devotional meanings, the mourning of the loss of earlier belief systems, the critique of established religions, and the challenge of traditional stereotypes, while at the same time, developing new perspectives. Many of the contemporary artists, who reference traditional 'stringed things', are of indigenous or mixed race heritage. No contemporary responses to 'stringed things' were found from Hindu, Islamic and Jewish traditions. Artists, whose selected work is examined in this thesis, include Australian based artists: Lola Greeno, Julie Gough, Jonathan Jones and Ian Bonde; New Zealand based artists: Niki Hastings-McFall, Sofia Tekela-Smith, and Maureen Lander; Chinese artist Chen Zhen and Thai artist Montien Boonma. This study found that there is a vivacious and optimistic engagement by artists, with reference to traditional 'stringed things', to comment on identity, belief systems and colonial heritage. These artists explore the interface between different cultures through the use of old and new technologies. Their work is about new encoded meanings, about celebrating opportunities for discourse and about creating new parameters. They illustrate that enriched exchanges are possible across cultures.


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Copyright 2007 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 2007. Includes bibliographical references. Vol. 1. Ch. 1. Difficulties surrounding the study of traditional 'stringed things' -- Ch. 2. Recurring themes in traditional 'stringed things' -- Ch. 3. Issues surrounding cross-cultural contact and contemporary artists -- Ch. 4. The response by contemporary artists to 'stringed things' of belief -- Conclusion. Vol. 2. Appendices -- Contact lists -- Transcription of interviews. Vol. 2 unavailable for download as it contains transcripts of interviews with named interviewees.

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