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Title: Making worlds between extinction and care: a study of values and imaginaries in social art practice
Authors: Marsden, Hannah Louise
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis proposes an alternative approach to understanding value-construction in social art practice. It contrasts with studies that reproduce intrinsic/instrumental logics which can be restricted by ambitions to quantify, capture, and accumulate presumed value, and is instead motivated by possibilities of bringing something new into existence. The research engages with critical theory of ontological politics, which is concerned with the power-laden and contingent practices of bringing worlds into being, each with their own ‘realities’, assumptions, norms, logics and effects on people. Consequently, dominant instrumental discourses that can disenfranchise communities, are reframed towards more just and sustainable processes of value-construction. Two interconnected, affective ways of thinking run throughout - an ‘ethics of extinction’ and an ‘ethics of care’ – raising questions about what worlds are threatened with extinction, and who can care enough to take responsibility. Such questions are explored through an auto-ethnographic study of two social art projects, which investigates the values, practices and associated imaginaries that are being cultivated in the hope of making ‘better worlds’ possible. I engage in embedded, reflective analysis to build situated, practitioner focussed knowledge (rather than assumed or imposed knowledge) about the challenges inherent in social art practice. The focus moves towards collective and ‘grounded’ knowledge-making, which incorporates the fullness of practice, prompts a rethinking of relationships between artists and their collaborators, and proposes ways in which practitioners can navigate instrumental landscapes. The findings show how creative devices of place and scale are employed through collective, embodied, and affective practices to counter the social imaginaries of dominant or elite groups and open the way for alternative ‘more-than-human’ and ‘care-full’ social imaginaries. This strengthens the case for sustained and cumulative models of commissioning social art that are structured in ways that can better resource more caring relationships and more care-full worlds.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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