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The Use of tactical absurdity in (post-)conceptual art practice

The Use of tactical absurdity in (post-)conceptual art practice
The Use of tactical absurdity in (post-)conceptual art practice
The ‘tactical absurdity’ forwarded in this research emerged out of my own practice. I, like many other artists working in a conceptual tradition, was producing work that appeared to operate through some sort of absurdity, and with some sort of intentionality. There was, however, almost nothing in the literature that could account for this approach.

The term ‘absurdity’ is deployed by artists, critics, and curators alike with little precision or consistency; usages borrowed from literature or existential philosophy sit alongside everyday understandings, and frequently fail to discriminate between absurdity as a formal device and absurdity as a subject-matter. Its meaning is treated as self-evident.

Adopting an emergent and autoethnographic practice-based methodology, this research furnishes a practical and theoretical understanding of the operation of tactical absurdity deployed as a device in (post-)conceptual art practice. Over the course of the research, five objectives are achieved: (i) to define the concept of absurdity; (ii) to establish a context for the use of tactical absurdity in contemporary (post-)conceptual art practice; (iii) to develop a body of work that operates through tactical absurdity; (iv) to account for its emergence within a practice; and (v) to forward a theoretical analysis of its functionality and value modelled through notions of relativity, generativity, and criticality.

Three case studies address these issues via their own thematically distinct contexts, exploring practically the forms that a tactically absurd approach might take, and the ways it might function as a tool of engagement. Drawing upon a number of forays into theory, and aligning itself with eight variants of tactical absurdity identified within (post-)conceptual art practice, the analysis of the works produced offers an understanding of tactical absurdity that sees it as valuable through its generativity, its criticality, and its opposition to preexisting interpretative and discursive frameworks.

The tactical absurdity accounted for in the research distances itself from a more familiar ‘mannerist’ absurdity, which is seen to have relinquished its potency. The research provides a platform for further work on the use of tactical absurdity as a tool of engagement with specific contemporary issues.
University of Southampton
Ball, Dave
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Ball, Dave
e81787e7-4a98-4f6b-9ed1-9bf2a0a13573
Davis, August J
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Hon, Gordon
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Ball, Dave (2020) The Use of tactical absurdity in (post-)conceptual art practice. Doctoral Thesis, 174pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The ‘tactical absurdity’ forwarded in this research emerged out of my own practice. I, like many other artists working in a conceptual tradition, was producing work that appeared to operate through some sort of absurdity, and with some sort of intentionality. There was, however, almost nothing in the literature that could account for this approach.

The term ‘absurdity’ is deployed by artists, critics, and curators alike with little precision or consistency; usages borrowed from literature or existential philosophy sit alongside everyday understandings, and frequently fail to discriminate between absurdity as a formal device and absurdity as a subject-matter. Its meaning is treated as self-evident.

Adopting an emergent and autoethnographic practice-based methodology, this research furnishes a practical and theoretical understanding of the operation of tactical absurdity deployed as a device in (post-)conceptual art practice. Over the course of the research, five objectives are achieved: (i) to define the concept of absurdity; (ii) to establish a context for the use of tactical absurdity in contemporary (post-)conceptual art practice; (iii) to develop a body of work that operates through tactical absurdity; (iv) to account for its emergence within a practice; and (v) to forward a theoretical analysis of its functionality and value modelled through notions of relativity, generativity, and criticality.

Three case studies address these issues via their own thematically distinct contexts, exploring practically the forms that a tactically absurd approach might take, and the ways it might function as a tool of engagement. Drawing upon a number of forays into theory, and aligning itself with eight variants of tactical absurdity identified within (post-)conceptual art practice, the analysis of the works produced offers an understanding of tactical absurdity that sees it as valuable through its generativity, its criticality, and its opposition to preexisting interpretative and discursive frameworks.

The tactical absurdity accounted for in the research distances itself from a more familiar ‘mannerist’ absurdity, which is seen to have relinquished its potency. The research provides a platform for further work on the use of tactical absurdity as a tool of engagement with specific contemporary issues.

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Published date: September 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 446907
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/446907
PURE UUID: cf0bfd50-27e2-4686-8c66-b8b764f9e326

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Date deposited: 26 Feb 2021 17:30
Last modified: 12 Dec 2021 10:56

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Contributors

Author: Dave Ball
Thesis advisor: August J Davis
Thesis advisor: Gordon Hon

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