Loughborough University
Thesis-2010-Ward.pdf (4.77 MB)

The hunting of the duckrabbit: in pursuit of an aesthetics of knowledge

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posted on 2011-02-23, 08:47 authored by Robert Ward
This is an orthodox thesis in that it is a “book”. However, it is also the practice element of the PhD by part-practice; i.e. it is presented as the practice and the theoretical aspects of the PhD submission. In a sense, it stands for a thesis, in which instance it has become a “stereotypical” thesis, a “straw man” at which the theoretical arguments are launched. The written text describes itself as a self-reflexive paradox, using the well known illusion of the duck-rabbit as an example of its undecidable nature. As a “test” for the representatives of the awarding institution the problem set is whether to regard the thesis as art-work or as theoretical exposition. In order to drive the point home a “version” of the thesis is presented with a spine binding on both ends thus making it impossible to open – literally, a “double-bind”. Much of the discussion is centred on current debates over whether “knowledge” can be extracted from art works — that is to say, knowledge that can be communicated and that could be called “reliable” as a pre-requisite for a PhD. The thesis argues that the available literature on the subject seems to be continually “in pursuit” of a satisfactory answer — a pursuit much like that in Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark. Interpretation of art works is the mainstay of this literature and it is the hermeneutical approach that is given most critical attention from a deconstructive angle. The ontological status of “art” is examined as a consequence of the Duchampian readymade, which is often overlooked as the transparency of art works is often assumed in order to “contain” subject-matter that “embodies” knowledge. This, the thesis argues is a non sequitur and only leads to a dissemination of possible, equally valid knowledge claims and is thus a specious epistemological enterprise. By enunciating the thesis as a work of art, there forms a duality of text and object/image where each reinforces the other at the same time as each cancels the other out. The text fictionalizes the art aspect and the art aspect objectifies the text into a kind of calligram. It is anticipated that claims for the irresolvable nature of the “pursuit” lead to a sense of the uncanny which is characterized by repetition (of themes that result in circular arguments) and disembodiment — separating knowledge from aesthetic judgement and separating textual theory from the readymade that calls itself a Thesis.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


© Rob Ward

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

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  • en

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