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Harnessing the Utopian Impulse in Drawing: a practice led PhD

Strange, Emily (2014) Harnessing the Utopian Impulse in Drawing: a practice led PhD. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This research brings together two complimentary enquiries that are discussed alongside one another throughout this thesis. The first enquiry explores drawing as a generative as opposed to a goal oriented process. The difference between the two processes is considered to be an important catalyst that sheds new light on the history of instrumentality in drawing, which recent exhibition platforms like Richard Deacon's 'Abstract Drawing' at the Drawing Room, London, have also reassessed. Generative drawing here is understood as an explorative process that determines an outcome (inside or outside the drawing). Goal oriented drawing is critiqued as a process that is driven by an endpoint or goal, suggesting that drawing itself is a means to an end rather than an activity that shapes that end. These differences are explored in relation to a second enquiry into the utopian philosophy of Ernst Bloch, for whom the critical efficacy of utopia lay in its capacity to function as a generative process, as opposed to a goal oriented one. The utopian impulse is explored here as a parallel lens through which to see drawing as a reflexive enquiry (drawing that both generates and critiques its own process) and to therefore re-view its instrumental role. The thesis begins with a discussion about the generative capacity of tracing to mark the beginning of a gradual separation between a drawn line, its traced source and the autonomous drawings that result. This is summarised as a simultaneously destructive and generative act (the drawing is generated by destroying its source), which is supported by Bloch's comparative use of the trace as a critical means of foresight, which is compared and contrasted with the theories of Derrida, Deleuze and Badiou. Finally this destructive form of drawing that gradually distances itself from its source, is explored in reverse to consider its reconstructive potential. In this context the writing of Walter Benjamin is brought into the foreground and examined in relation to the joint effects of retrospective temporality and future orientation in this drawing enquiry. This drawing research is viewed primarily as a process that is harnessed and theorised through a series of drawn pictures, which are generated by one another and emerge as the conclusive statements of the project. This hopes to shed light on the relationship between drawing and instrumentality and to re-think the role of pre-figuration in drawing, through what Deanna Petherbridge has called its 'future subjunctive tense' (Garner, 2008). The associative exploration of drawing through the utopian impulse reveals a paradoxical feature of the instrumental agency of both drawing and utopia, as it is understood by Bloch, which shows both to function as destructive and generative processes.

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