My research centres on modern and contemporary art and visual culture from North America, Latin America, and Europe. I am especially interested in abstract and conceptual art from 1960 to the present and, more specifically, practices that explore the political implications of art’s post-60s formal innovations, encompassing minimalism and post-minimalism, installation, conceptualism, experimental cinema, and related movements.
My work is rooted in recent art theory, critical theory, and continental philosophy, touching on interdisciplinary debates in aesthetics and politics, post-structuralism and deconstruction, bio- and necro-politics, embodiment, ethics, Marxist critique, and various other topics.
My dissertation (supported by a SSHRC doctoral fellowship) considers the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Doris Salcedo, Teresa Margolles, and Santiago Sierra, artists that redeploy the aesthetics of 1960s minimalism in relation to contemporary political crises. I look at how these artists use minimalist formal strategies to convey the socio-political abstraction of human life and, further, to address the conditions in which certain bodies fail to appear. I argue that these artists demonstrate how the body’s disappearance produces an abstraction: not the sign of a body but the index of its withdrawal from appearance (to invoke the etymological meaning of abstrahere). By portraying the material traces of the figure’s negation, they account for the aesthetic and political challenge of presenting anonymous bodies and beings. Their work thereby inverts minimalism’s concern with the relation of objective forms to embodied viewers, revealing art’s contradictory relation to inaccessible bodies. By exposing viewers to unknowable and imperceptible beings, they reject dominant ethical models based on the inter-subjective relation of autonomous individuals. Instead, they illustrate an ethics of co-existence that is irreducible to subject-object binaries and to the subjectivization of embodied life. In these respects, these artists make an important case for the political and ethical relevance of aesthetic abstraction today.
I plan to develop my dissertation into a manuscript that will focus on Salcedo, Margolles, and Sierra. Together, these artists provide a critical account of globalization’s effects in the twenty-first century, encompassing the politics of citizenship, migration, security, violence, detention, and neoliberalism. I aim for this study to offer a new theory of globalization itself, understanding it as the set of aesthetic and political technologies that organize bodies in space and time.
Additionally, I hope to begin a new research project on modern and contemporary art practices that explore the aesthetic relations between sexuality, sensate bodies, and the external world. Provisionally titled “Three Essays on the Aesthetics of Sexuality,” this study builds on my efforts to theorize the aesthetic relation between the body and the external world. In this case, I examine how artists have drawn on sexuality to challenge that relation, particularly by freeing bodily sensation from the confines of individual subjectivity.