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Contested Collectivities: Europe Reimagined by Contemporary Artists

Cohen, Brianne (2012) Contested Collectivities: Europe Reimagined by Contemporary Artists. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation studies a particular current of contemporary art, which is devoted to exploring positive models for an intercultural imaginary in Europe. In recent times, there has been much contestation over a European identity following decolonization, mass immigration, globalization, and the breaking down of political boundaries on the continent. Numerous artists are scrutinizing a symbolic-visual realm increasingly shaped by stereotypes, misinformation, and distortions concerning “foreigners” and immigrants. This dissertation examines the work of three artists and art groups – the filmmaker and video installation artist Harun Farocki, the public installation artist Thomas Hirschhorn, and the transnational art collective, “Henry VIII’s Wives.” Each explores various forms, such as film, television, the Internet, radio, and so on, in order to probe how the media shapes public opinion and group identification. Through these three cases, the dissertation charts a changing narrative of “Europeanness” from hopes for a federation after the racial genocide of World War II through critiques of nationalism after decolonization, the “failure” of multiculturalism since the 1990s, and intensified Roma discrimination, Islamophobia, and right-wing extremism in the twenty-first century.
At stake is a broader question of how strangers may relate to one another in an increasingly proximate world. Within the field of contemporary art history, scholars have focused recently on issues of collective spectatorship and participation, or how multiple viewers around an artwork may connect with one another and not just an object. Since the 1990’s, there has emerged a robust line of inquiry directed at socially-oriented art practices, variously studied as “community” art, “relational” art, “dialogical” art, and so on. While this scholarship has opened up a rich discourse about different aspects of socially-engaged practices, there has not been a study of artists who focus on the specific dilemmas of constructing a present-day “European community.” The European Union itself, for example, which touts a slogan of being “United in Diversity,” is an exemplary model to rethink questions of cross-cultural exchange and hopes for inter-relating a mass body of strangers. This dissertation investigates contemporary artists in Europe who are staking aesthetic questions of collective engagement in vivid socio– and geopolitical terms.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cohen, Briannebcc19@pitt.eduBCC19
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSmith, Terrytes2@pitt.eduTES2
Committee MemberMcCloskey, Barbarabmcc@pitt.eduBMCC
Committee MemberHalle, Randallrhalle@pitt.eduRHALLE
Committee MemberEllenbogen, Joshjme23@pitt.eduJME23
Date: 13 June 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 March 2012
Approval Date: 13 June 2012
Submission Date: 4 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 235
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Collectivity, Collectivism, Xenophobia, Postcolonial, New Europe, Information, Public Sphere, Counterpublic, Populism, Tatlin, Mass Media, Deep Play, Bataille Monument, Swiss Swiss Democracy, Bijlmer Spinoza Festival
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2012 20:06
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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