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Touching and Making: Encounters with Matter


Touching and Making: Encounters with Matter

Gagnon, Charles (2012) Touching and Making: Encounters with Matter. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This interdisciplinary thesis offers an account of the sense of touch, from the point of view of the artist. The analysis is concerned with the tactile aspects of art production, and pays particular attention to the physical characteristics of the materials used to generate artworks. Taking my own studio based art practice as its point of departure, this thesis is further interweaved with anthropological, art historical and technical approaches to the analysis of material culture, including art.

This thesis is an exercise in research creation. It consists of two sections: one written and one drawn. The series of drawings served simultaneously as research, and to articulate touch.

Throughout my research, I have encountered contradictory attitudes towards touch and materials: while there is an increasing attention given to the senses, tactility, and materiality in the social sciences, art history, and the discourse of artists, concrete material characteristics and technical processes of art making are treated as secondary. Priority is given to theoretical, social, and otherwise abstract notions.

I attend throughout my thesis to the material and sensual qualities of art works, by for example focusing on the size, thickness and weight of books; the sonic qualities of words; the inclusion of tools (used in the production of the work) as part of the work; and, artists who seek to accentuate or cure neuroses.
This thesis is otherwise informed by a perspective which seeks to overcome the classical separation of the material and the abstract. This perspective developed from the works of Gilbert Simondon and Martin Holbraad. Their work both helped to frame the research, and furthered my conceptualisation of Conceptual art as manipulable.

Conceptual art is said to be dematerialized art, prioritising thinking, with an end result that need not be an object. This suggests a lack of interest in the sensate on the part of Conceptual artists. However, my encounters seek re-materialise and re-sensualise Conceptual art, by attending to material and techniques.

The encounters with matter recounted in this thesis are informed by an autoethnography of my studio practice, which sensitised me to the relationship between bodily postures and the art making. The autoethnography explored the consequences that comfort, or discomfort can have on art making, as well as the variable results from the speed of the drawing hand, the quality of the paper, ink, and pen. These findings were used as a basis for the in-depth analyses of other artwork in the thesis.

The original question that led the undertaking of this interdisciplinary research, an interest with manipulating materials, became a method of comprehending art objects.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Gagnon, Charles
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Special Individualized Program
Thesis Supervisor(s):Amantea, Gisele and Howes, David and Sloan, Johanne
Keywords:art history,materials, senses, material culture, Gilbert Simondon, Martin Holbraad
ID Code:974841
Deposited On:18 Jun 2013 11:52
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:39
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