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Addressing the self through the subjectivity of the other: a practice-led investigation of a particular artist-model relationship

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posted on 30.10.2014, 10:01 authored by Lawrence Buttigieg
As an artist working with the female model, this practice-led research examines concepts of alterity and subjectivity while challenging the dominant role of male subjectivity in the western world. It revolves around the relationship between myself and the female subject, a specific woman who within the context of my work epitomises but at the same time transcends womanhood. This undertaking suggests that my representations of her body grow out of a dialectical tension between the feeling that the female other has almost become a metonymic extension of myself, and the awareness that such a feeling is at the same time illusory. The practical component of my investigations takes the form of body-themed box assemblages which are reminiscent of polyptychs, tabernacles and reliquaries. However, the sacred images which form part of these ecclesiastical items are replaced with others showing close-ups of the fragmented bodies of the model and myself. While this kind of profane artefact acts as a receptacle for our bodies which are broken down and enshrined together with other objects, it constitutes part of an ongoing process whereby the relationship between myself and the female figure is metamorphosed, re-shaped, and re-visioned. The significance of these creations is meant to extend beyond their artefactual existence and become mediums through which I re-visit female sexuality and eroticism and assess them within a spiritual context, albeit in the circumscribed framework of a particular woman. The artefact s ultimate objective is to appease my innate desire to access the other via a self-reflexive process which involves both mirroring and distancing at one and the same time. This process also includes an exploration into the spiritual with the aim of exploiting that which is other in the western theological tradition, namely God and the Divine. The gaze is also deeply involved in this exploration of the other. In fact, while our bodies are subjected to a re-visitation and trans-valuation in parts through multiplication and fragmentation, the gaze is in the process broken down into a series of glances which originate from myself, the viewer or the female subject. This process questions and disrupts the dominance of the male gaze, and its associated precepts, in Western visual culture. Finally, by correlating the model s body with the divine, my artefacts seek to give this woman, as an embodiment of the true other, a trans-corporeal identity. Rather than seeking to exert control over the other, they provide a pious space wherein the self and the other are able to encounter each other in a manner that initiates an equitable relationship, unhindered by presumptive knowledge. This is aided by the aesthetics and dynamics underlying the box assemblage which, while expressing gender fluidity and encouraging disengagement from preconceived dogmas a sort of reverse cognition also enhances the experience of its deific symbolism.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


© Lawrence Buttigieg

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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NOTE: Volume One is available online. Volume Two contains image only and is closed access for copyright reasons. A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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