Queer aesthetics of empathy and gothicness in contemporary sculpture

Anderson, Murray (2019) Queer aesthetics of empathy and gothicness in contemporary sculpture. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Prompted by my practice, I recognised that sculpture intended to engage an empathetic response from the viewer also evokes an unexpected Gothic impression. Misunderstood and rarely affiliated, empathy and the Gothic are commonly
denigrated and have become dissociated from contemporary art discourse. In response, this investigation examines the relationship between both notions within contemporary figurative sculpture, to question how they ally one another and establish whether an empathetic aesthetic renders a Gothic reading (or vice versa).

I initially re-establish empathy and the Gothic’s aesthetic foundations and overlooked theoretical conceptions, primarily by Vischer and Worringer. Employing Vischer’s framework of empathetic vision, the research is conducted through analysing the semblance and supplementary associations of my own practice, accompanied by works from Paweł Althamer, Folkert de Jong, Laura Ford, Friedrich Kunath, Ugo Rondinone, and Cathy Wilkes. Novel readings, expounded through transdisciplinary sources (conspicuously via Stokes, Fried, Crimp, Barthes, Benjamin, and Eisenstein), reveal recursive reference to notions of modelling, absorption, camp, sentimentality, embarrassment, and popular culture.

Prefigured by the past, such referents arouse a queer temporality. Methodologically aligned with Freeman’s notion of temporal drag, through the theories of Muñoz, Dinshaw, and Halberstam, empathy and the Gothic are found to inhabit a realm of queer potentiality, which I locate within awkward adolescence. Using Worringer’s ‘Gothic line’, attended by Deleuzoguattarian theories, I argue that empathy and the Gothic’s shared in-between status is governed by mutual inclusion. The encounter with the gathered sculptures is thereby pictured as a virtual process of becoming.

The practice and writing of this research remobilises and intensifies empathy and the Gothic, reanimating their object-orientated positions. Contributing unlikely theoretical juxtapositions, hidden affiliations, and new perspectives on contemporary sculpture, I contend that empathy and the Gothic are extant notions of queer resilience – reaffirming difference, valorising the forgotten, and upsetting aesthetic categories.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 31410
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2021 11:35
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:49
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/31410

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