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Keren Moscovitch, IDSVA





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This dissertation argues that intimacy has the capacity to operate as a radical disruption of ideological constructs, and therefore possesses political agency. Furthermore, contemporary art that employs radical intimacy may be deployed as ideological-political activism. Grounded in the psychoanalytic-poststructuralist theories of Julia Kristeva, particularly her research on abjection, intimacy and revolt, the project examines intimacy as an ambivalence of subjectivity and borders, inside and outside. The project explores the practices of several contemporary artists, namely: Leigh Ledare, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Ellen Jong, Joseph Maida and Lorraine O’Grady. Beginning with Freud’s erotic and unconscious-oriented discourse, and continuing into Lacan’s split subjectivity and desire, the theoretical arc follows Kristeva’s poetics into a discourse of ambivalence between subject and object. Engaging Althusser’s theories on interpellation of subjectivity and ideology, I situate radical intimacy in contemporary art practice as a rejection of oppressive ideological constructs, particularly, subjectivity itself. Kristeva’s notion of revolt as a return to the individual’s singular truth supports a philosophy of intimacy grounded in speech and the perpetual questioning of identity, and a radical reconsideration of subjectivity. The project concludes with an introduction to object-oriented feminism, a new school of feminist praxis, grounded in the limits of subjectivity, and the radical ontology of objecthood. This final step situates radical intimacy in contemporary art within the political arena of activist practices, demonstrating the ways that abjection, revolt and the dissolution of categories catalyzed by intimate practice, effect an ontological shift from subjectivity to objecthood. Thus, radical intimacy disrupts the modern hegemony of subjectivity, suggesting a new language for the contemporary philosophical era that equalizes the ontological status of humans and non-human entities, inviting new modes of ecological thinking.


African American Studies | Art Practice | Arts and Humanities | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Portland ME

Radical Intimacy in Contemporary Art: Abjection, Revolt, Objecthood



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