A body of relations: reconfiguring the life class

Ling, Yuen Fong (2016) A body of relations: reconfiguring the life class. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
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The established practice of drawing from the life model elides the complexity
of the life model in relation to gender, race, social status, sexuality, and identity.
As a pedagogical methodology, the assumptions and protocols of the life class
enforce separation and silence between the life model, artist and tutor, and
uphold a framework of oppression1. Further, this form of education is widely
viewed as outmoded, neglected and of little relevance to contemporary art
As a practicing artist, I want to re-examine the relationship between the life
class and the theoretical positions of participatory and performance art
practice. Theoretically, the challenge of this research, to the established
practice of the life class is premised upon several concepts. Firstly, the
“dematerializing of the art object”2 the process rather than art object as the
primary site of the artist’s creative output. Secondly, the concept of
‘performance’ art is explored where the artist’s body becomes the potential
primary site of the artwork. Thirdly, Bourriaud’s ‘relational aesthetic’, which
posits other people’s participation and engagement with the artwork’s “interhuman
relations”3 as the principle by which an artwork is mediated.
In this practice-led research, I examine the notion of the artwork as ‘event’,
and the subsequent ‘art object’ as document, artifact, or ‘trace’4 of the artist’s
and other participant’s performativity; whether invited, co-opted or usurped
into the artwork. The research is undertaken through the production of a
portfolio of original new artworks and their reflection and written analysis. I
examine the following lines of inquiry5:
1 Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, translated by Bergman-Ramos, Myra, Penguin Books,
edition 1996
2 Lippard, Lucy. Six Years: The Dematerialization of The Art Object from 1966 to 1972. University of
California Press Ltd, London, 1997
3 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Translated by Pleasance, Simon & Woods, Fronza, with the
participation of Copeland, Mathieu, Les Presses Du Reel, 2002
4 Benjamin, Walter, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in Illuminations, Pimlico,
London 1999
5 Nelson, Robin, Practice as Research in the Arts, Principals, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances,
Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, New York, 2013, p.26
- 4 -
1) To understand the implication of a process-orientated ‘performance’ and
‘participatory’ art practice to challenge the conventions of the life class
2) To explore the subsequent effects of this reconfiguration of the life class on
our understandings of the role of the life model, and their subjectivity that the
conventional life class elides
3) To examine the role and status of performance and participatory art’s
documentation process on the life class, and the life drawing
4) To reconsider the educational possibilities of performance and
participatory art practice on the teaching of the life class.
I adopt a recognized multi-mode approach to evidencing this inquiry using
videos and photographs, qualitative interview, historical research and
strategies of display6. My research develops a theoretical trajectory to assert
that contemporary art practice enables a return to the life class, but to a
reconfigured life class that has learnt from the issues of power, play and
subjectivity examined in this practice and commentary.
The reconfigured life class provides a performative, discursive, social space to
empower the life model to actively engage in the production of his/her own
self-image. In addition the research re-frames the life class as a site in which
the discourses of contemporary art as ‘relational’ and ‘performative’ can reach
its apotheosis as a de-materialized performance event, whose trace exists in
the dispersed materiality of the artist’s body and whose silenced subject, the
life model, becomes a full individual subject.

Keywords:Life class
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
ID Code:25420
Deposited On:26 Dec 2016 18:11

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