2016 MRPS AND THESES
Craftivist Clay: Resistance and Activism in Contemporary Ceramics
Mary Callahan Baumstark
Since the late twentieth century, the social engagement of craft emerged as a primary concern for both makers and activists. While “craftivism” was quickly defined by the work of a few, this thesis expands previous considerations of craftivism as both theoretical construct and making method. Considering the emergence of craftivism as method, this thesis examines the work of ceramic craftivists, analyzing their practices and produced works within a context of increased political urgency, using ceramics as a microcosmic exploration for craftivism in a given craft media. This thesis will analyze the efficacy of this method in contemporary ceramics, seeking to clarify both the import and impact of craftivism in a world overwhelmed by both activist causes and material goods. This thesis questions and complicates the history of craftivist theory, its role in contemporary ceramic practice, and its efficacy as a whole, exploring the extent to which craft can create social change.
CO-WINNER OF THE CADN OUTSTANDING WRITING AWARD
Objects in Human Drag: The Queerness of Object-Oriented Ontologies
Katherine N. Connell
This thesis explores the intersections between queer theory and object-oriented ontologies (OOOs) through examining three case studies of objects in human drag: (1) hats, purses and shoes; (2) mannequins; and (3) dildos. I argue that queer theory and OOOs are necessarily connected in that both offer philosophical strategies of resistance to hegemonic structures imposed by binary gender categories, compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory anthropocentrism. By applying Judith Butler’s theories of drag to the objects of my case studies, I look at how, similar to the means through which drag performances destabilize a heterosexual claim to originality, these objects undermine the anthropocentric ‘claim to originality’ that OOOs also aim to subvert. The conclusion of the thesis asserts that drag opens up an unstable and uncanny ontological wake, through which all objects are revealed as radically queer.
Anish Kapoor: Embedded Impressions of Indian Culture
This MRP analyses key elements in several of Anish Kapoor's iconic artworks. While many of these works appear formalist at first glance, the artist's multicultural background plays an important and often under-recognized role. Born in Mumbai, Kapoor spent his formative childhood years in India before moving to London and starting his professional artistic career. Often eschewing his Indian roots in favour of being considered an artist, first and foremost, the subtler meanings embodied in Kapoor's work remains a challenge to those unfamiliar with Indian culture, religion and philosophy. This MRP seeks to bring forth the Indian aspects found in Kapoor's sculptures and installations. Three sections – ‘Colour’, ‘Auto-generation’ and ‘Architecture’ – identify the presence of Indian thought and spirituality in Kapoor's use of intense colour, self-created objects, and evocative voids. I argue that Hindu concepts such as Sunyata ("emptiness") and Samkhya ("dualities") are fundamental to the artist's works. Ultimately, Kapoor’s work not only features traces of Indian themes, philosophies, and culture, but depends on these aspects for its most compelling affects.
Spatial Awareness in Locative Media Projects
This MRP focuses on the different applications that location technologies take part of such as, free based navigational systems like Google Maps, and Locative Media art projects; and analyzes their impact on people and their experience of space. By determining that Google Maps and Locative Media are on different sides of the spectrum of location technologies, I suggest that they are developing different territorial discourses through the use of digital mapping. I suggest that Google Maps is developing a territorialization of space by modifying the way in which the body recognizes space, by creating an image of the world that is designed towards a single user—the Google user—and by imposing itself as a map that is able to represent space. Using a theoretical approach towards understanding these effects, I then analyze three Locative Media project that challenge these ideas, they are Indeterminate Hikes by Cary Peppermint, Megafone/Montreal in*accessible by Antoni Abad, and Amsterdam Real Time by the Waag Society.
CO-WINNER OF THE CADN OUTSTANDING WRITING AWARD
Whimsical Bodies: Agency and Playfulness in Robotic Art
Treva Michelle Pullen
This thesis examines issues related to agency, playfulness, and behavioral design in robotic art. Using the term ‘whimsical bodies’ (inspired by artist Steve Daniels’ Whimsy, 2008) as an evocative metaphor for the playful ecology and creations of robotic art, I take up historical and contemporary case studies as entry points to a multi-faceted discussion of human-machine engagements considering the lenses of philosophical, art historical and curatorial methodological research. Robotic art’s whimsical bodies are also explored through references to new media scholarship, object-oriented-philosophy, metaphysics and speculative theory. In assessing characteristic features of the art form, such as its playfulness, use of humor, and critique/reconfiguration of wonder as a mode of critical engagement, this thesis aims to move robotic art from the periphery to the center of new media art as a lively and unique field of research.
Sensual Alterity of Digital Objects
Theresa Rose Slater
This thesis hypothesizes ways in which contemporary theory constructs sensual qualities in digital objects. I disrupt the common epistemological understandings of objects to describe what constitutes a sensual alterity. The sensible object is defined to be something more than representing a real object. This thesis expands upon demonstration files available in breve, an open-source, multi-agent simulation software. The digital object substructure is unpacked through the lenses of theorists Karan Barad and Graham Harman. I negotiate digital bodies as vertices and attributes to be ontologically stable. I formulate rasterization (transferring vector to pixel visualization) to be a model of the intra-actions (assemblage of causal forces) of agential separability (practice of mattering) showcasing the apparatus as inexhaustible in its penetrative cut. I explore this sensual exteriority and apply the apparatus of touch to indicate the capacity of digital objects to experience otherness, or sensual alterity.
Occupy! Activate! Engage! The Politics of Visuality in Occupy Wall Street
This MRP presents an analysis of the visuality of Occupy Wall Street arguing that visuality was a crucial tool for the success, mobilization and direction of the 2011 movement, and that studying this case study provides an example for the ways in which activism adapts to the digital age. The analysis focuses on a study of public space, graphic design, social media and performativity as elements of OWS’s visuality that inform, mobilize and direct the movement. Using the ideas of Rosalyn Deutsche, Joseph Beuys and the Situationist International, the MRP situates the movement within a dialogical framework which identifies the public as creative directors. This MRP shows how OWS uses visuality as a means to disrupt hegemonic power structures and imbedded systems of control while activating counter publics and encouraging a fluid and multiplicitous use of public space.