PhD Research


My work addresses how the material and conceptual form of artist books may be used to explore the partial nature of communication and to challenge the fixity of meaning implied by dualism in language. In the current climate of post-truth, mass information, polemic language, and a growing lack of certainty, the material aspects of language should be interrogated, rather than accepting presented truths or un-contextualised answers. In a wider sense, the project provide spaces to question the compulsion for definitive answers and the reliance on oppositional meaning, or binary sense.

Cultivating a rhizomatic and associative way of working developed from the work of Deleuze and Guattari, this research forges additive connections, crossing disciplinary boundaries and assembling diverse theories. It elicits a praxis response to explore the abstract notions of existing between or beside, through an examination of new materialist writing terms. Unsettling dualism in order to avoid fixing or claiming a position, fragmentary techniques are employed to reject immediate coherence, opening spaces to reflect on minor processes of meaning-making.

Considering the book form, the condition and position of the author is examined: the death, return, authorial position, and conceptual distance achieved since the author’s original death declared by Roland Barthes writing in 1967. If an author(ity) continually re-emerges, and cannot be killed, silenced, or neutralised, I pose questions about how distraction, meandering, error, misrepresentation in relation to reading and writing might be used to challenge authority and expectations of research behaviour. I develop a method that stems from Caroline Bergvall's call for conceptual poetics of engaged disengagement, breaking the relentless submission to the rules, while acknowledging the complexity of lived experience, combined with Barthes’s insolent but smitten reading approach. A disruptive devotion to reading, writing, and making are enmeshed in the practice, folded into each other, ravelling and unravelling dualism through an additive approach.

Rachel Smith

January 2019

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