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Politicising curatorial discourse: performativity and the radical imaginary in the curated encounter

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posted on 24.11.2021, 13:24 by Aria SpinelliAria Spinelli
This practice-based Ph.D. addresses the complex relationship between politicised curating and performativity in contemporary curatorial practice. It chooses the representation of activism as a critical perspective within the field curatorial research, using this as a way into the notion of curatorial practice as a politicised process. With a focus on the social dimension of curatorial encounters, it teases out the rapport between the individual and the collective, arguing that the notion of performativity frames politicised curating. By unpacking the notions of politicised practice and tackling concepts of publicness in art and political theory, the thesis finds the context of radical . Through the analysis of the curatorial projects Collateral Effects - Beyond a Radical Milan (2013/2014) and Curating as a Form of Assembly (2015), which apply notions of the assembly through performative curating, this practice based doctoral research contributes to the field of curatorial studies and political theory by questioning whether performative curating can be framed as a politicised process, and whether the radical imaginary can be considered as a politicised process of embodied political imagination, enacted through the experience of performatively curated encounters. The concepts of the radical imaginary and radical imagination are two of the most important contributions to political theory of the Greek-French philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis. Castoriadis hypothesises that the process of autonomy involves both the human psyche and political discourses of change. Alongside the writings of Castoriadis, the critical production of American feminist philosopher Judith Butler, inform this research. These authors focus attention on everyday life within capitalism and envision this micro-dimension as the possible grounding for radical social change. Bringing together the performative dimension of art and politics, this practice based doctoral research builds on renewed interest in the work of Castoriadis. Whilst acknowledging the importance of his ideas within the field of art and politics, it claims that it is through the performative dimension that his writings are key to the further development of politicised practice.


Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Creative Arts


Loughborough University

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© Aria Spinelli

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




Gillian Whiteley

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