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Mitcheson, K. (2015)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Languages: English
Types: Article
In this article, I demonstrate how Louise Bourgeois used her artworks not only to better understand herself but also to cultivate a self capable of taking control of and reshaping the material of her past. Exploring her artworks in the context of Michel Foucault’s understanding of technologies of the self, I both contribute to the appreciation of Bourgeois’ work and show how visual artworks can be used to understand, cultivate, and transform aspects of the self. Foucault’s understanding of our subjectivity, as formed and deployed by power tactics, suggests the need for the formation of new subjectivities as a tactic of resistance. While his view of subjectivity as contingently created allows for the possibility that it could be different, his understanding of the conditions of its creation in terms of power tactics seems to constrain the possibilities for alternative subjectivities. I argue that artworks can help us understand the contingency of our subjectivity and illustrate how something new can be created out of existing conditions, in ways that may disrupt those very conditions. Further, in addition to bringing us to an awareness of the possibility of creating new subjectivities, artworks can directly contribute to this process for both artists and audience members. Turning to Foucault’s own understanding of Stoic writing practices as a means of knowing and controlling the self, I use Bourgeois’ work to illustrate how artworks can operate as technologies of the self, which work directly on the self, extending Foucault’s understanding of the role of writing to consider the particular contribution that visual artworks can make. I explore how the visual form, sculptural medium, and materials of Louise Bourgeois’ works contribute to their operation as technologies of the self which can allow one to relate to oneself differently.
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