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Parafiction as Matter and Method

Smith, R (2020) Parafiction as Matter and Method. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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The thesis examines the different ways in which artists have engaged with parafiction in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Parafiction – a fiction experienced as fact - has become an important mode of practice within contemporary art, with this shift concurrent to the exponential growth of digital technology. The term contemporary art is applied here in an expanded sense to acknowledge the effect of digital processes and matter on art and to include practices that use technology as form or subject or a combination of the two. Parafiction appears in various materialities, both digital and physical, and could be described as having neomateriality. Parafiction as Matter and Method inevitably locates the research within the context of the digital. The research investigates how the usage of parafiction has changed since 1989 with the rapid advancement of technology and widespread access to the internet. Changes in the social and political landscape have also affected the function of parafiction in contemporary society. These conditions are not necessarily time bound or linear. Drawing upon and extending Carrie Lambert-Beatty’s concept of parafictions (2009), the research is rooted in art history and contemporary art for its theoretical frameworks. The research engages deeply with art history and contemporary art in an expanded sense to contextualise and analyse parafictions, whilst utilising an interdisciplinary approach. To augment this deep context the research has combined the following fields: artistic practice, digital cultures, media studies, performance art, philosophy and politics. By synthesising this broad range of fields the research is original and complex in its approach aiming to consider the topic at a planetary scale within the bounds of the possible. As an overarching method, this research applies fiction as a method to produce new knowledge. The research uses primary and secondary methods including the production of a body of artwork and diagrammatic reasoning to augment the theoretical proposal. The art practice is employed as a method to synthesise the theory with practice and to apply the knowledge learnt outside of its text-based constraints. The practice appears as interludes interspersed throughout the thesis, that produce a duo-linear narrative with the aim of the thesis becoming an artwork in its own right. Primary data collection included interviews with relevant artists, attending and speaking at international conferences and research visits to exhibitions. This thesis has evolved through the attendance at international conferences as speaker and audience member, peer-reviewed publication, interaction with academic peers and research visits to exhibitions. This thesis evaluates how parafiction renegotiates physical and digital spatio-temporal parameters to offer alternatives for the present, pasts and futures, for both human and nonhuman users of those spaces. As parafiction becomes matter it has the ability to converge the digital and the physical to extend the lives of artworks beyond their initial existence. It is argued that fictioning methods have the most impact within contemporary art in its most expanded sense. The research advocates for parafiction as a vital method, found within artistic practice in the twentieth and twenty-first century, which produces new information and perspectives. This thesis uniquely concludes that parafiction is matter, as material that intersects and interacts with the modularity of digital technologies. Significantly, the research has found that parafiction acts as an additional module that connects physical and digital spatio-temporal with alternative potential for pasts, presents, and futures.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Internet; Art History; Art Practice; Contemporary Art; Digital; Fiction as Method; Parafiction
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Art & Design
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2020 09:48
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 10:40
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00014002
Supervisors: Fallows, C
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14002
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