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The palace at 3 a.m. (ordo inversus) a woodcut (re-)invention in resonance with Merleau-Ponty's 'chiasma'

Loos, Christoph M (2015) The palace at 3 a.m. (ordo inversus) a woodcut (re-)invention in resonance with Merleau-Ponty's 'chiasma'. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This PhD is project and theory based. The project component of my PhD, The Palace at 3 a.m. (Ordo Inversus), consists of an exhibition, i.e. a site-specific installation in the Cloister of the Alpirsbach Monastery (Black Forest, Germany). The written thesis, The Palace at 3 a.m. (Ordo Inversus). A Woodcut (Re-) Invention in Resonance with Merleau-Ponty’s ‘Chiasma’ investigates the hypothesis that my woodcut method represents a historical rediscovery of this time-honored medium as well as a new radicalization within contemporary printmaking. The investigation places a particular emphasis on self-referential conceptualization and (simultaneously) the programmatic use of the Chiasma image, which the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty reintroduced into contemporary discourse. My own artistic approach and method is, moreover, characterized by a distinctly sculptural understanding of the printmaking medium, which is the impetus for the printing block – with its outward sculptural affinity – to take on a coequal and integral role in a confrontational constellation with the print. This sculptural quality, which often tends towards expansive installations, leads to a conscious and offensive treatment of space and spaces manifested in site-specific installations. In addition, this thesis places a particular emphasis on the relationship between print and printing block, which are examined through the lens of Unity and Difference, the Loss of Unity, the Phenomenon of Mirroring, In- Betweenness, Invisibilities and Chiasma – all aspects which culminate in the installation The Palace at 3 a.m. (Ordo Inversus). In art history and its scholarly literature – there are no comparable examples in which the connection and interplay between print and printing block arises so inevitably and naturally, in a truly intrusive manner and celebrated on a formal level. This relation is not just a subservient or aesthetically free 4 interaction, but rather – nolens volens – a conditional relationship creating an integral-genealogical entanglement with one another. From the trunk section of a tree very thin leaves of wood are peeled off radially. While the wooden cylinder serves as printing block the wooden leaves become the prints. Although the relationship between print and printing block is absolutely fundamental to the woodcut medium, there is hardly any relevant literature on the subject, much less a full-fledged study or monograph. In this respect, the present thesis can also be seen as a long overdue contribution to this aesthetic and philosophical discourse. If nothing else, this PhD project should show that it is possible to breathe new life into a tradition, which is even sometimes considered passé these days, and to even make a significant contribution to a potential renaissance of the medium.

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