Creating the ‘Disoeuvre’: interpreting feminist interventions as an expanded artistic practice in negotiation with art’s institutions

Allen, Felicity (2016) Creating the ‘Disoeuvre’: interpreting feminist interventions as an expanded artistic practice in negotiation with art’s institutions. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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In this submission, I argue for a re-thinking of the concept of an artist's oeuvre, to extend it conceptually to account for what I call a 'Disoeuvre'; that is, an oeuvre that is not necessarily recognisable in conventional terms, but in which artistic practice and the works that it produces are contingently reactive and diverse. The works submitted are produced through different media and disciplines, cross the boundaried conventions of the creative, the critical and the scholarly, as well as the studio, the social and the institutional, and result from quite different imagined and actual contracts. Implicitly, each questions the limits of a conventional oeuvre and together they form a basis for a Disoeuvre. The contingencies from which they are produced might relate to economies of power, resources, temporal factors, and accident; all reinforced as life is economised in the biopolitical.

I make an original contribution, first, to feminist and radical critiques of art theories and practices (which cross the studio, the social and the institutional) and, second, to emergent concerns with artistic labour. The Disoeuvre is a concept that perhaps could only develop from a marginalised position which is frequently condemned as insufficiently radical. Discussing oversights by feminist and radical writers and historians in identifying marginalised artistic practices, I locate the Disoeuvre in relation to biographical and professional contingencies through which the submitted works were produced. Concomitant issues of amateurism, professionalism, pedagogy and practice are discussed.

The third chapter reflects on second wave feminist analyses of reproductive labour as unrecognised but essential to capitalist economies, and the relation between this and the obscurity of reproductive labour in the art museum conducted through gallery education. The British development of gallery education as a counter-strategy against the growing influence of the market within the museum is posited, with a discussion of examples of early radical but largely unrecognised projects and exhibitions which I compare with more celebrated feminist works of art. The contested occupation of the role of the child in the museum relates to the market and its educational counterpoint, and the play on this conducted by male adult artists is discussed, whether through performative behaviours or exhibited work.

Finally, I reflect on the impact of 'feminised' labour practices for artists contracted as employees of the museum. With increasing corporatisation and consequent loss of cultural value invested in the anonymous public servant, and pressures to be entrepreneurial and self-brand, the artist employee might increasingly exploit the museum not only to promote but also to produce work that is their own. Notions of independent artistic production become ever more questionable. While valuable durational employment and supportive contracts have only been exceptionally available to support women artists of my generation or older, the concept of 'maintenance art' can be applied to the shape-shifting, hidden but tenacious work of the Disoeuvre. Feminist artists and art historians must look beyond exhibitionary and public performative conventions to assert the complex practices that produce Disoeuvres, to pursue an analysis of art suggested by second wave feminism.

Item Type: Doctorate by Public Works
Additional Information: Some of the works on which the thesis is built upon can be accessed via the repository following the links in the 'Useful Links' section below. Some of the books are available from the Middlesex University Library (not electronic copies).
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
B. > Doctorates by Public Works
Item ID: 21558
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Jennifer Basford
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2017 11:11
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2021 14:59

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