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Ambivalences – on art and gliding positions

Research project This research project asks if ambivalence may be regarded as an active and important force within contemporary art, which approaches enquiries concerning gender, ethnicity and class.

Some of the project’s basic questions are: Are there artists who in their practices use ambivalence as an artistic method? If so, how does it appear? How does it leave traces in the artwork? And how does it shape the understanding and interpretation of the viewer? This question concerning the understanding and interpretation of the viewer leads to an investigation into whether ambivalence may also be regarded as an active and important force within contemporary art theory, in which ideas concerning gender, ethnicity and class are brought to the fore. Might the notion of “division” and “hesitation offer a way to reach knowledge about art and the realities and values which it articulates?

Project overview

Project period:

2007-01-01 2009-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Culture and Media Studies

Research subject

Art history

Project description

The research project asks if ambivalence might be regarded as an active and important force within the field of contemporary art, which approaches enquiries concerning gender, ethnicity and class. Ambivalence is a state and a concept which has fascinated me for many years. The background of the current project is to a large extent to be found in the experiences I had while working on my doctoral thesis on the American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977).

Some of the basic questions raised in the project Ambivalences – on art and gliding positions are as follow: Are there artists who in their practices use ambivalence as an artistic method? And if so, how does it appear? How does it leave traces in the artwork? And how does it shape the understanding and interpretation of the viewer?

This question concerning the understanding and interpretation of the viewer leads to an investigation into whether ambivalence may also be regarded as an active and important force within contemporary art theory, in which ideas concerning gender, ethnicity and class are brought to the fore. Might the notion of “division” and “hesitation offer a way to reach knowledge about art and the realities and values which it articulates? In this project international artists and theorists are being studied, but a clear focus is also aimed at Swedish artists moving within this “field of doubleness”.

Concepts regarding performativity play a decisive part in my investigation, and ideas formulated by, for example, Susan Rubin Suleiman and Gavin Butt are being included. The project is presented in English and will be published in articles, but it will also be published as a book.