Art and ephemera post-structuralist perspective: visual art, ephemera and environment

Lord, Anne Mary (2008) Art and ephemera post-structuralist perspective: visual art, ephemera and environment. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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A principal objective for this study was to investigate visual art that incorporates ephemera for conceptual and practical reasons. In my study, the ephemeron is not archived, it is intentionally allowed to disintegrate as an art process and I link this act through art praxis to potential metaphors for environmental wellbeing.

My research identifies new approaches in art practice that address ecological strife. Poststructuralist theorising was applied to the visual arts to empower the ephemeral art object. The scope of this study involves potential locations or sites to effectively present and publicise this practice. Other than professional support from the art industry, the scope was broadened or restricted by an artist’s ability to respond with a very light environmental footprint to art and ephemera. Internet was a methodological strategy to counter what might have been isolation, and participants responded using email, from regions and centres. Thus it was significant for assembling data. My roles as artist, researcher and educator led to online communication and publication about this topic, and temporary art ~ installations I created for this study are a substantial part of this research.

Mentors and models in the contemporary visual arts include professional creative arts practitioners and their work. Selected mentors (artists and authors) and models (current examples as well as precursors) assisted in identifying parameters for this study in a climate of global environmental change. Buskirk’s (2005) ‘contingent objects’ and Bourriaud’s (2002) ‘relational aesthetics’ are crucial for this study in recognising alternative approaches to ‘art history’. Selected theorists assisted methodological strategies to question the power of archived art as the art canon. Critical distinctions of ecological responsibility separate current art perspectives about land from some pre-1990 practice.

Tiravanija’s the land (1998 - ongoing) includes key ideas that extend parameters for investigation of art not necessarily archived during or after installation, and he uses ecologically sensitive and informed approaches to comment on current environmental issues. Art collectives, such as the land, access the digital as a tool for ephemera and to counter regional isolation.

Memory triggered by sight, and site as culture in nature, provided inspiration for this investigation, where art and nature are potentially interchangeable. Memory plays a role in identifying regeneration and transformation, evidenced in artist Wolfgang Laib’s materials: pollen, wax and milk; Gustav Metzger’s (1961) ‘acid nylon technique’ and his (2007) ‘shattered stones’ extend the scope of performative art objects, as does Sheela Gowda’s Collateral (2007), made from incense. Models from pre-1990 artwork and readymade precursors elucidate aesthetic of ephemera through time-based change.

Post-structuralist theory and discourse analysis facilitated a revised positioning of visual art, through interaction of visual art and ephemera and how this impacts on contemporary society. My ‘Glossary for Art and Ephemera’ contributes to new knowledge. Through this theorizing glossary I invite dialogue from scholars, visual artists and the art industry.

Neo-narrative and autobiographical voices query how the process of ephemera and disintegration could identify new visual arts practice, and how this practice impacts on decisions in disparate communities. Access and equity are discussed through facilitating artists’ stories into my study, as voices that have been excluded in the past. Agentic repositioning of art that privileges ephemera in a binary 2, as opposed to the archived, is predominant in this study. Analysis of the data empowers ephemera as art, and as metaphor to activate change in attitude to crisis in natural environment.

Qualitative research assists the development of key questions about the relationship of visual artists’ concepts about material change and how they impact on the broader community’s environmental concern. Material investigation played an important part in the thesis, for though ‘art and ephemera’ is anti-archive, the disintegration and ephemeral nature of art materials are key to the art discussed in this thesis. This study presents a humble practice and materials ranging from pollen, fading photographs and incense to flotsam, detritus or garden mulch. The study identified art methods that empowered the ephemeron in visual art to act as a metaphor for the implementation of potential new policies for sustainable modes of practice in and beyond the visual arts. These apply to creative arts models for social and pedagogical application that could relieve stress caused by excess of commodity. These provide ways to address environmental concern. I have accumulated significant data and refer to this to provide recommendations for educational curriculum development to suggest that art and ephemera be considered as a viable and pragmatic alternative to, and not a replacement for, archival practice. Authors referenced for practice-based research and pedagogy, include Davies, Ashton, Foucault, Sullivan and Thompson.

James Cook University research strength, People Identity Place, supports my regional influences from northwest Queensland. My original home, with naturally treeless plains, lies between the watershed for the Lake Eyre Basin and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Significant ideas emerged for my artwork from this region that is dry for most of any year. Sketches, diaries and archived photographic records contribute to my reflection on place. My findings inform researchers about the relationship of artists as cultural providers and communicators of ecologically sensitive issues. These methods demonstrate concern for the twenty-first century environmental situation identified by Stern (2007). Though much has been discussed and created in the area of art and social change, this research project identifies changes apparent in the natural environment, to act as creative visual art metaphors to increase awareness of climate change.

‘Art and ephemera’ is asserted as a viable alternative to archival art. Forms of art and ephemera exist as statements about conditions of change, and, of these, key pieces illuminate the impact of people in their own natural environmental location and how this could be addressed through change of attitude. My concern for regional place and environment led to development of my art praxis that comments on, and addresses, human activity and impact on place.

Item ID: 15317
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: ephemeral art, ephemera, environmental ephemera, environmental decay, found objects, ecological art, post-structural art, anti-commodity art
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2011 23:46
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190502 Fine Arts (incl Sculpture and Painting) @ 50%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190504 Performance and Installation Art @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 100%
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