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Diffractive curatorial practice: ripples, gaps and the space in-between

Aishman, H. (2020) Diffractive curatorial practice: ripples, gaps and the space in-between. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00089322


This thesis investigates the potential for practice-based research to impact and challenge current discourses surrounding contemporary curating. Current curatorial practice frequently focuses on socio-economic political ideologies (Althusser). By focusing on the ideological discourse concerning curating, what other dialogs, discussions, or forms of knowledge are excluded or suppressed? Can a diffractive (Haraway) approach to research be applied to curatorial practice? If so, how would a diffractive curatorial practice function? My thesis asks the question, “Can curatorial practice offer opportunities for increased capacities to act outside of ideological limitations?” Drawing on the theoretical traditions of Spinoza, Deleuze, Haraway, Barad, and Braidotti among others, this thesis is based in a relational ontology that questions the premise that the roles in a curated exhibition are clearly defined and immutable. Can curatorial practice be viewed as an assemblage where the boundaries of the elements of an exhibition are constantly erased, re-drawn, re/de-territorialized and can fluidly mix with each other? This thesis asks if practice-based research can be analyzed both reflectively and diffractively in order to include marginalized, situated, and partial knowledges. Can embodied research methods (such as affect theory that can involve using sensations in the body) be used as methods to collect and analyze data? Can curatorial practice deploy a concept of distributed agency that acknowledges the agency of all participants of an exhibition, both human and non-human, and not just the curator? What is the role of technology in diffractive curatorial research? What is the “matter” of curatorial practice and how does a practice-based curatorial researcher engage with matter? The conclusion of my thesis brings together my research into all of these questions to develop an “onto-ethico-curology” (in resonance with Barad) that creates a method to evaluate curatorial practice outside of a specific ideological framework.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Allen, K.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
ID Code:89322
Date on Title Page:2019


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