Burke_whole_thesis.pdf (1.37 MB)
Unsettling space : trauma and architecture in contemporary art
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 10:21 authored by Burke, EK
This thesis is an inquiry into relationships between concepts of trauma and architectural forms and spaces in contemporary art. Through critical analyses of a selection of the sculptural and site-¬¨‚â†‚ÄövÑv™specific works of four key artists -¬¨‚â†-Krzysztof Wodiczko, Rachel Whiteread, Doris Salcedo and Gregor Schneider -¬¨‚â†-it argues that architectural form and space provides a rich material and metaphorical framework for exploring the shifting conceptual terrain of contemporary trauma. Where the representational problem of trauma has traditionally been theorised in relation to subjective experience and the failures of language, the thesis suggests that through their engagement with architecture, all four artists present it as a problem of space and social relations. It argues that these artists utilise architectural form and space as a medium for exploring contemporary anxieties about trauma and its continued effect on both our political and personal lives and our experience and memory of past and present events. The thesis is structured in three chapters that analyse meanings of trauma in the selected works along a trajectory of different approaches to domestic, institutional, and public architectural sites and spaces. It suggests that through the sculptural strategies of displacement and the blurring of structural boundaries between interior/exterior space, the works straddle the traditional, psychologised space of private, individual experience and a broader, more political space that encompasses collective experience and public forms of commemoration and inhabitation. As such, the thesis argues that problematizing the experience of inhabitation across these spaces is an aesthetic and political strategy that has the power to unsettle the viewer and initiate affective engagements with some of the more ethical dimensions of trauma and our collective response to it in contemporary contexts. By identifying conceptual links between the works of Wodiczko, Whiteread, Salcedo and Schneider, the thesis develops a critical framework for theorising how the unsettled parameters of architectural spaces and forms can foster new approaches to trauma.
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