Dissertation Proposal- Reviving

by - Sunday, January 06, 2013

Ok, reviving is some serious misdirection, because I spent today napping and puking. But, I am sure I will pull myself together tomorrow and get to work. I am making myself write about my progress here every week with the hope that the threat of people's judgement I will keep myself more organized.

The finished product should be about 14 pages double spaced, and right now I am at about 9 pages single spaced (some of that is outline, so I would guess I am about half way). I feel like I have a good sense of where everything is going, but I am worried that I don't have a strong enough central argument to tie the whole thing together, which was the problem with the first go at this. It is amazing to me just how hard it has been to get over the last failure and move on. I find in grad school, my habit is to fall on my face and then eventually get up and get moving. Now I feel like I spend too much time kicking myself to get my feet under me to stand.

I just feel like a failure. And because this is all I have going on, I find myself coming up with a million other non-grad school pursuits so I don't have to feel like a loser (hence, this blog, among other things). It's a good defense for my self-esteem, but when I start thinking I enjoy these things which are not a job a lot more (please, someone pay me to take pictures and blog), we are in dangerous territory. This chapter has been hard in an entirely new, very lonely way that I haven't experienced before, but I know I just need to push through it.

So, now is the time to do that. The goal is to have a draft in by the beginning of next week. I really think I can pull it off if I just keep pushing.  If I write next weekend, and don't have that done, throw some tomatoes

To fill you in, this is what I am doing now. I am writing about artists who are known for their initial work in the 60's and 70's but who continue to work now like Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Marina Abramovic, and Hannah Wilke. My dissertation is about their newer work and the ways it directly comments on the performances that made them famous and how their legacy has transformed over time. We live in a time where cultural relevance turns over quickly, so these artists have lived through arguments against them, periods of invisibility, and renewed relevance. Rather than sit back and accept the naratives created about them, they use new performances to intervene and reframe their old ones.Abramovic did this to wide acclaim in "The Artist is Present" in 2009 by doing a retrospective that also featured reperformances and the opportunity for face to face contact with the artist. Rather than leaving curators to build their retrospectives out of their archive, these artists reanimate their old work to make it prescient to a new audience.

This is especially interesting because as performance artists, they position their body at the center of a network of media and actions. As their body changes and the threat that their bodily archives will eventually disappear becomes more and more immanent (many of these artists are now in their 70's or 80's), they make active efforts to control what will be remembered about them. By doing so, they create a unique temporality where the past is used in the present for the sake of the future.

By talking about their intervention, we have the opportunity to talk about the art world as well. We can talk about feminism and how it generally thrives on a generational model (in the 60's and 70's feminist paved the way, and every generation after that has questioned the one before's exclusivity or essentialism- they both find flaws in the world and flaws in their predeccessors thinking). To move forward, young women have to prove the previous feminists didn't move far enough. In this way, feminist thinkers behave in the same way most of the world does; they render older women invisible. Think about it. Most second and third wave feminist issues- reproductive rights for example- privilege the experience of younger women. In the same way, how many older women play a role in the public sphere?  In academia, it is the same way. Age as an issue in the humanities (as opposed to aging as a medical condition in the sciences) is only beginning to gain traction. There is only one theoretical collection about aging and aesthetics.

Despite this seemingly inevitable invisibility, some of these artists are exceptional in that they have carved themselves a spot back into the art world. I am hoping to address why late capitalism's nostalgia, celebrity culture, and cultural tourism actually encourages these sorts of "comebacks."

Oooh my, ok, this is the basic plot here. Forgive the typos and lapses in sense- remember, I am on cold meds, Peppy Bismilk, and so on. I think it will be good, and at the least I am excited about it, but it was easier for me to write this than to type out something on Microsoft Word. I just sit there and stare at my notes, trying to figure out where to start. I am sure it will work out eventually. And if not, I can raise my prices on zenfolio and live off the profits (currently the only person who has bought a picture is my husband, but I am sure someone else won't be able to resist soon).

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