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    Writing the railway: biosemiotic strategies for enforming meaning and dispersing authorship in site-specific text-based artworks

    O'Reilly, Sally (2020) Writing the railway: biosemiotic strategies for enforming meaning and dispersing authorship in site-specific text-based artworks. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This practice-led PhD is concerned with the subject matter of contemporary art. It proposes methods by which a writer-maker’s authorship can be dispersed throughout reticulated networks of interpretation, and tests the limits of detail articulable in an artwork. To counter the literary and discursive turns that have dominated art theory and practice since the 1970s, the thesis demands a reassessment of the privileging of the viewer and of the adoption of indeterminacy as a generic style. It proposes instead a turn to biosemiotics as a means to situate the artwork materially, bodily, historically. That ambiguity and pluralism can consequently be deployed strategically, affectively and to critical effect is tested and evaluated in the accompanying practice. The thesis gives an account of the theorising and devising of text-based artworks which take the UK railway as site, and considers site-specificity a particular sort of engagement with subject matter. The railway is approached as a complex technical object consisting in multiple entangled intentions and interpretations – social, emotional and political valences, diffracted by a spectrum of practices, knowledges and semiotic ontologies – all of which are available to the writermaker as immanent materials of the artwork. Part One of the thesis presents a transdisciplinary argument that draws on biosemiotics, linguistic anthropology, philosophy of time and socio-psychology as well as art history and critical theory. Part Two performs an analysis of paradigmatic descriptions of the railway, speculates on the social dynamics of a train carriage interior and empirically tests the bureaucratic structures of London Underground. Part Three is an exegesis of three pieces submitted as documentation in the practice portfolio: an audio work, a guided tour and a live performance on a train carriage tabletop.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: The full version thesis is not currently available for public use. Date of PhD award confirmed as 2020 by registry
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2020 11:13
    Last Modified: 11 Jun 2021 05:22


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