Resistance, Art, Parr: Engaging Mike Parr’s Self-Correction

Wilding, Gregory Lee (2011). Resistance, Art, Parr: Engaging Mike Parr’s Self-Correction PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Wilding, Gregory Lee
Thesis Title Resistance, Art, Parr: Engaging Mike Parr’s Self-Correction
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-07
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor A/Prof Dr Rex Butler
Dr Sally Butler
Total pages 373
Total colour pages 46
Total black and white pages 316
Language eng
Subjects 190102 Art History
1901 Art Theory and Criticism
Formatted abstract

In the Australian art world the name Mike Parr holds a kind a mythic status. For some forty years his work has been synonymous with practically everything considered to be resistant in art. Parr is a prodigious artist, having produced many thousands of works across a range of mediums. He has exhibited continuously both nationally and internationally since the beginning of his career in the late 1960s, and has been the subject of a number of important exhibitions. There have also been several books devoted exclusively to his work as well as a large number of other publications. But for all of this interest, there exists a limited understanding of how resistance in Parr’s art actually operates. The key reason for this is that resistance (i.e., the notion of the avant-garde) has largely been treated as a one-sided concept that merely entails the act of saying “No,” as if the concept, both in theory and in practice, produces no logical complication. From a theoretical perspective this is highly problematic, given that Parr’s reputation in the Australian art world is predicated precisely on the value of his critical resistance.

Accordingly, the question this thesis has addressed is the following one: what is the meaning of resistance in the art of Mike Parr? The underlying aim is to find out if Parr’s particular strategies of resistance have any relevance to the issue of whether resistance in general still plays a vital role in determining the value of Australian contemporary visual art as it once did.1 This thesis argues that although in recent times there has been a resistance to the concept of resistance in art discourses, resistance as an art productive force cannot be discarded without a certain reproduction of resistance (that is, without a certain production of bias towards the value of one position over and against that of another). Of particular value to the question of resistance is Parr’s practice of self-correction. For Parr, self-correction as resistance has developed over several decades as both a method of production, insofar as it has determined and continues to determine the creation of specific types of images and actions to be explored, and, on the other hand, self-correction has developed into an ongoing principle of falsification, whereby the outcomes of explored positions are always subject to aesthetic and ethical reflexion or scrutiny when new information comes to light; which is to say, outcomes are subject to further self-correction on the basis of their more or less provisional status. As it turns out, self-correction is in fact the meaning of resistance in Parr’s art. But it is by no means a simple concept, nor was it something that Parr arrived at through any single spur-of-the-moment intuition. Rather, it built up only after many years of self-critical engagement with classical standpoints of artistic resistance which, in one way or another (and this is because of the uncanny particularities of the concept of resistance itself), failed to communicate the socio-political realities Parr first intended his art to convey. Ultimately in Parr’s work, self-correction has proven to be an uncanny, enigmatic form of resistance that is well suited to explaining the complexities of contemporary art, especially with regards to the ongoing, paradoxical and delicate relationship between art and art as an institution.

So, in addressing the theoretical problem of how to comprehensively understand resistance in Parr’s work, I have applied (following the work of Reinhardt Koselleck) a Conceptual Historical method of analysis. In short, Conceptual History takes concepts as the units of historical analysis. It is a method that specifically looks at how a concept (in this case resistance) has been previously used in a particular historical and cultural setting, and compares that to present assimilations of the same concept in another setting. In this way, certain uses of conceptual meaning can be evaluated in terms of the objects or events that are put forward to reflect various dimensions of conceptual intent whether that intent is political, social, aesthetic, or otherwise. Essentially this thesis is a qualitative research project constructed out of a document-based case study that has specifically explored data from the present literature on Parr in relation to the direct analysis of his artworks

Keyword Parr, Mike, 1945- -- Criticism and interpretation
Art, Modern
Art, Australian
Dissident art
Performance art
Additional Notes 317-373

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Created: Thu, 12 Apr 2012, 16:32:21 EST by Mr Gregory Wilding on behalf of Library - Information Access Service