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On the graphic in writing-drawing practice

Reifenstein, Tilo (2017) On the graphic in writing-drawing practice. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This study puts into practice a form of critical thinking that promotes the intricate and inseparable entwining of the graphic processes of drawing and writing. It does so by examining the graphic marks of collocated drawing and writing in order to disturb any neat separation of 'the verbal' and 'the pictural'. The graphic mark that is structural to both the practice of writing and drawing is shown to displace and deconstitute the dichotomous and often hierarchical assignation of word and image, intelligible and sensuous, and conceptual and material. The study is positioned at the junction of practice-led enquiry and philosophical art history, and explores drawings by Raymond Pettibon and Michael Borremans. It engages the processes, materials, forms and institutions that shape the relations between drawing and writing as graphic practices through the development of a philosophical discourse that draws on post-structuralist French thought, German media philosophy, Anglo-Saxon art writing and practice reflections. Imbedded in a millennia-old discourse on the relations of images and texts, the thesis works against the persistent conflations of writing and language, and drawing and image that routinely separate writing from its graphic instantiation and reading from seeing. It draws on Jacques Derrida's iterability and Jean-Francois Lyotard's figure to demonstrate how the medial capacity of the line repeats itself differently in the drawn and written mark yet is indivisible between them. An examination of the material, gestural and iconic characteristics common to both drawing and writing identifies the affordances and exigencies of the graphic mark of both practices and shows how they facilitate yet exceed notions of signification. The thesis does neither propose a unified word-image theory, nor aims to offer the graphic as a centre through which new boundaries concerning the inside and outside of drawing and writing can be established. Rather, it recognizes its own entanglement in the subject as an artifact of critical thinking produced in the intervolved practices of the graphic mark and maintains their mutability and resistance to closure. It thus responds self-reflexively to the conventions of academic discourse that are inadequate for the subject and a priori impose on and limit the recognition of the picture in writing and writing in the picture by traversing these divides.

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