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The past as mise-en-scène: re-enactment in contemporary art

Tomic, M; (2012) The past as mise-en-scène: re-enactment in contemporary art. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis approaches re-enactment as a dominant strategy for the return of time-based practices through four case studies that inaugurate specific modes of fidelity to the event. Through the concept of the mise-en-scène, which I define as both a semiotic and psychic framing device and a literal place filled with objects or props, I investigate how these works operate within a fantasy space where past propositions are worked through. The dual geopolitical orientation of the thesis allows me to focus on both mainstream Western and slightly lesser-known Eastern European practices as a way of expanding the historiographic parameters of prevailing discussion. Therefore, my point of departure is the Slovenian retro-avant-garde collective IRWIN re-enacting the work of the Slovenian neo-avant-garde OHO group over the course of two decades, illuminating the link between art historical canons and national ideologies in the process. Second, I address a series of wildly differing approaches to the ‘reinvention’ of Allan Kaprow’s happenings and environments, ranging from resemblance-based ‘dramaturgical’ re-enactments to the invention of new event scores in places where the philosophy of the ‘un-artist’ was politically non-viable. Third, Marina Abramović’s re-enactments emerge as less concerned with self-presence and mutual transformation in a theatre of performative duration than with the ultimately self-reflexive deconstruction of received ideas about bodily transmission and empty belief. Through reference to Mike Kelley’s collaborative work with Paul McCarthy as well as later solo work, this thesis finally demonstrates how Kelley advanced Vito Acconci’s use of repetition through a fidelity to institutional, interpretive, and participatory failure. As I examine both image-based strategies of the return and those that reject mimicry in favour of overt difference and contingency, I also focus on the space between relational aesthetics and postproduction strategies in order to advance a critique of participation art.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The past as mise-en-scène: re-enactment in contemporary art
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1365538
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