Assunta Ruocco PhD Thesis Co-Working with Things.pdf (5.52 MB)

Co-working with things : how furnished spaces contribute to the emergence of artworks

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posted on 27.07.2020 by Assunta Ruocco
In recent years, a significant amount of attention has been given to the relationship between art and labour, to the nature of artistic labour, and to the feminist critique of Marxist thought on reproduction. Yet in different ways, these analyses have been based on a hylomorphic model of creation, in that they take for granted the domination of form over inert matter, and characterise the labour of maintenance as repetitive toil,
which is counterpoised to the inventive creative work of the artist.
This practice-based doctoral project asks how furnished spaces such as the studio, workshop and home contribute to t he processes from which art works emerge. The project examines the ‘reproductive’ work involved in furnishing working spaces and maintaining t hem, through engaging in a
series of practice-based approaches (painting, drawing and print-making). It initiated from an exploration of the constraints and opportunities of domestic arrangements for the production of art works through the work Vertical Studio (2010 onwards), which furnishes a domestic space as a working home studio,
and went on to explore existing furnished spaces such as the print-making workshop, testing their affordances with a set of rule-based procedures.
For the physicist Karen Barad, apparatuses of production are labourers that make unpredictable and irreplaceable contributions to the processes that they facilitate. Drawing on Barad’s work I demonstrate that rather than
merely containing furniture, materials, tools and machines, furnished spaces are also labourers that do some of the work involved in the emergence of art works. However, there are no ‘raw’ materials in the studio, the workshop, or the home: and I draw on the philosopher Gilbert Simondon to argue
that all matter is ‘worked’ matter, and that materials are produced and prepared. Drawing on Simondon’s critique of the separation of form and matter in hylomorphism, and his re-evaluation of maintenance, I re-examine the productivity of the work of setting up and maintaining furnished spaces.
There is a double-sidedness that connects the work that things do to the work of making things work: by defining both the home and studio as furnished spaces that work, the project suggests a new way of advancing beyond the distinction between productive and reproductive labour, and reveals reproductive labour as a set of practices the productivity of which is concealed and underplayed in current understandings of artistic labour.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


Loughborough University

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© Assunta Ruocco

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A doctoral thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




Gillian Whiteley ; Eleanor Morgan

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