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Practice-based PhD Research (2009/12)

‘Distance, however near it may be’: Revisiting ‘Aura’ on the Axis between Painting and Digital Technology within a Deleuzian Framework of ‘Becoming’

Between 2009 and 2012 I undertook a PhD practice-based art research around the notion of ‘aura’ in art at Winchester School of Art. The visual work below documents most of the practice part of my thesis. The thesis – text and visuals – (link to e-prints at Uni Southampton here) is outlined in the following abstract:

Caption to go here if required

This practice-based research sets out to explore new ways of visualizing and conceptualizing the notion of aura in art.

It departs from Walter Benjamin’s widely known critique of aura, the thesis of which is that aura as ‘uniqueness’ of an artwork decays with the rise of technological reproducibility.

Benjamin affirms with the decay of aura also the loss of the transposition of religious projections of distance onto fascist politics. His thesis had a major influence on contemporary critical theory where aura is still approached with great reservations.

These concern a relapse into religious structures, which mirror, so the thesis argues, the fact that aura has been, also in Benjamin’s ambivalent conceptualization, left ‘territorialized’ in a regime of transcendence in art.

The main research question has been: What could aura mean for painting in the expanded field, especially in relation to digital imaging? The outcomes of this research are paintings, works on paper (both involving the input of digital sources), digital films and writings.

The thesis develops a reading and visual ‘mapping’ of aura in the framework of Gilles Deleuze’s (and Félix Guattari’s) ontology of immanence where difference and its repetition as differentiation replaces the static metaphysics of ‘origin’ or ‘essence’.

Splendor Solis, a series of book illuminations from the Northern Renaissance proved to become a major visual source for experimentation. Aura is introduced in this alchemical work as the ‘splendour’ of Becoming, the deframing power of the differential processes that accompany individuation.

As a sensation experienced in intuitive art practice, aura affects and is affected by a field of interacting multiplicities and the potentiality of temporal differentiations, which reach beyond any ascertained subjectivity into virtual collective questions and problems.

Aura suggests as an ‘echo’ of Becoming an involvement with affects, and the research follows strands between qualitative intense moments that activate a ‘wound’ and extend to what Deleuze calls a ‘wound that existed before me’, an experience related to the synthesis of future, which confronts an individual with its emerging double.

Constructing, or ‘mapping’ aura as visuals on an axis that involves media of ‘uniqueness’ and digital technology gives those outcomes an ontological status of ‘simulacra’ or assemblages, far from the traditional associations aura would evoke.

Touching both experience and experiment, so the thesis argues, aura in immanence can provide an access to the virtualities of the ‘new’ in art practice.
The research introduces a visual scenario or ‘conceptual persona’ for intuition, which as method of this research folds both practice and writing. Friedrich Hölderlin’s unfinished play Empedocles at Etna, provides a metaphor or metamorphosis encompassing aura’s and intuition’s involvement with immediacy and duration.

The practice documentation of the thesis reflects the strands of the research as plurality of its differentiations, allowing the dynamics of its method in action to reflect the dynamics of aura.

The following videos are also part of this research: Deerfeathers, The Visit, Pages