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Urban Social Aesthetics: Individuating Contemporary Art's Urban Marxist Tendency

Melia, A (2021) Urban Social Aesthetics: Individuating Contemporary Art's Urban Marxist Tendency. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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This thesis examines what I call ‘urban social aesthetics’, which, I contend, is an ‘urban Marxist’ tendency in contemporary art, characterised by 1:1 scale engagement with the social urgencies of urban sites as a means for anti-capitalist agency and resistance. It is my contention that, within contemporary art scholarship, instances of this urban Marxist tendency are often not individuated from the mass of other existing urban art productions. Despite engaging with the most pressing urgencies of our contemporary moment (i.e. housing, gentrification, homelessness and contemporary forms of racial segregation), there is arguably a lack of debate that singles out and underscores this urban Marxist tendency. How can art theoreticians and scholars pinpoint this urban Marxist category of contemporary practice? How can such intellectual actors individuate this practice from the multitude of other urban art productions and approaches so that it may acquire critical, discursive independence? In this thesis, I suggest that the discourses and practices of ‘Situationism’ and ‘experimental institutionalism’ could contribute to this task. This thesis’ overarching aim is to contend that the urban-centric debates and praxis of the Situationist International and experimental institutionalism could contribute to the examination of contemporary art’s urban Marxist tendency (‘urban social aesthetics’). The Situationist International was a predominantly European art collective that sought to resist capitalism and transform urban experience. On the other hand, experimental institutionalism is a field of curatorial practice, institutional reform and debate concerned with the art institution’s potential transformation into a socially responsible agent. I argue in this thesis that said field’s socially responsive approach to instituting and curating tends to engage with decidedly urban conditions. Conferring with the major hub for experimental institutionalism that is the L’Internationale museum confederation (as well as its collaborators and partners), this thesis asks—is it the urban post-Marxist theory of the Situationists that could lend to an examination of urban social aesthetics or the ongoing debates/praxis of experimental institutionality?

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Urban Marxist; Urban; Capitalist-Urbanism; Situationist; Experimental Institutionalism; Contemporary Art; Socially Engaged Art
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Art & Design
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2021 10:56
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2022 14:09
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00015883
Supervisors: Byrne, J, Birchall, M and Fallows, C
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15883
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