University Of Tasmania
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Visions of enchantment: Fictions of intimacy within contemporary art

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posted on 2023-05-26, 02:46 authored by Barber, JE
The research seeks to create an innovative hyper femme vision of enchantment within contemporary installation art by exploiting the magical and vicarious pleasure of perfume bottles. The study proposes that hedonistic and 'conspicuous' feminine content acts to incite prevailing socio-cultural ideas concerning appropriate expressions of sexuality. Through the creation of an explicitly feminine mode of enchantment the aim is to progress pluralistic perceptions of gender and tolerance of diversiform modes of sexualised expression. Parameters for the research were established through review of the practice of Jeff Koons, Sylvie Fleury, Mariko Mori and Pierre et Gilles. Surveyed as a collective, the work of these artists represents celebration of intimate concepts of desire predicated upon sexuality and identity. Consequently, they express a contemporary polemical aesthetic model for enchantment that builds upon a legacy of sybaritic practitioners within the arts. This is demonstrated through examination of the modes of rococo, pre-raphaelite, symbolist, aesthete and decadents, art nouveau and psychedelia, which explicate exuberant content and style. The research hypothesises is that the history of enchantment within art articulates sustained, occasionally cohesive and non-didactic counter- cultural activity. The research contends that the emergence of secular enchantments within contemporary art segues with current salient philosophical discourse, which likewise seeks to re-enchant a disenchanted world. An analysis of the genus of fantasy within fiction resulted in the contention of fantasy as desire incarnate, and therefore an apposite visceral mechanism for enchantment within art. The researched is conveyed in the installation La Galaxie de Joy, comprising a suite of feminised sculptures inset within a celestial milieu. Derived from perfume bottle designs and sampled from creative styles and relevant practitioners researched during the project, an aesthetic methodology called superstyle was developed. This articulates a commitment to camp tenets of excess, glamour, exaggeration and spectacle and manifests formally in sinuous curves, dramatic posturing, playful ornamentation and glittering or strikingly coloured surfaces. A heavenly milieu for enchantment was created incorporating decor elements such as a cloud-floor, stars, swathes of fabric, deep blue walls that melt into the floor, a luminous bubble-web centrepiece, antechamber, specialised theatrical lighting and pink blush colouring. The research project outcome is the exhibition installation that explicates an innovative and experiential paradigm for feminised enchantment within contemporary art. This has been achieved through employing the synaesthetic and affective power of perfume bottles in the practice to explore concepts of excess, intimacy, pleasure and desire in relation to gender and aesthetics. This research project contributes to the existing field of knowledge in three ways. First, through identification, analysis and documentation of a specific mode of enchantment that has emerged within contemporary art. I describe this phenomenon as a fiction of intimacy. Second, the project proposes an innovative thesis with reference to fantasy in the history of art. The tracing of a historical context revealed a continuum of artists whose practices flourished in opposition to prevailing academic and western cultural values and established that enchantment within art articulates a provocative and sustained counter culture. Third, and most significantly, this research contributes new knowledge through development of an innovative paradigm for enchantment in contemporary art, aimed at increasing diversity of sexual expression through installation practice.


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