Title

Expedition

Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2014

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type

Thesis

Abstract

Exoticism presents fantasy constructs of Otherness which make up a discourse of problematic “truths.” This discourse is reflected and perpetuated in culture-items (art, literature, music, etc.) which can be identified as “exotica.” On one level, exotica simply reinforces these “truths,” but it also offers potential revelations relating to the exotic construct itself, a collection of fictions so elaborate and vast that it may be said to have its own history. Exotica can be described as the reflexive form of that alternate history; it is also a fantasy zone which reveals a desire on the part of the exoticizer to escape the reality of the present and identify oneself with the Other. Because the Other ultimately emanates from ourselves, I posit there is much learn from an appreciative study of exotica. With an understanding of the history, formal components, and linguistic concepts which make up exotica, I explore a way of making work that immerses itself in the exotic discourse and cannibalizes its various manifestations. The resulting work itself belongs on an exotica timeline; it simultaneously replicates the effects of exotica, functions as a critique or analysis, and presents a particular reading of culture and history which argues via juxtaposition the similarity and interconnectedness of various disparate aspects of the exotic discourse.

Language

English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Oilynyk

Program Director's Department

Graduate School of Art

Committee Member

John Sarra

Committee Member

John Sarra

Committee Member

Carmon Colangelo

Committee Member

Michael Byron

Artist's Statement

Evan Crankshaw

Statement

In fashioning constructs of the exotic, we erect fictions and enforce preconceptions largely divorced from ethnic, geographic, and historical realities. In this dangerous game, what we're really playing at is a continuous defining of ourselves, partly by sheer contrast and partly through the dark mirror of our cultural fantasies. Thus the primitive is twin to the civilized, the exotic doubles the domestic, the timeless past and the eternal future both reflections of the progressive now – the other is ultimately us.

I posit that there is great value, beauty, and profundity to be discovered in the exploration of the myth-making and cross-cultural exchange which makes up exoticism. These moments are worth investigating, appreciating, and enjoying, on the merits of what they can show us; they reveal the topography of our internal desires, the construction of our fantasies – however problematic. Not just despite these problems, but quite often largely because of them. By refusing to turn away, we gain an understanding of the form and function of exoticism, both as a manifestation of imperialist propaganda and a deeper expression of longing. Only then may we begin to work to subvert it, to recuperate it, to reclaim the constructed universe of the exotic.

My work attempts to penetrate this zone, this place in time, with generosity, in search of incomprehensibilities, revelations of beauty, and elements of sincerity – the longing to escape into something beyond than what already is, a yearning to identify not with society but with the Other. Thus my work pushes on the membrane between the nebulous regions that define Exotica – conflating “now” and “then,” “them” and “us,” narrative fact and fiction, historiography and invented ages, education and spectacle, anthropology and pseudo-science, legitimate world culture and western popular constructs, surrealism and ethnography, art and kitsch. Grandeur applied to the banal, sophistication to the savage, the marvelous converging with the sublime.

Using actual cultural artifacts of genuine (often commonplace and kitsch-generated) exoticism, I employ juxtaposition, variations on the collage method, and construction of new contexts to reconstitute these elements into quasi-credible illusions, building new or refurbished worlds in the ruins of old fantasy constructs. The familiar, borderline-conventional nature of the imagery allows one to rather easily participate in and enjoy the exotic fantasy; the ethnologic and historical elements illustrate aspects of a history of interconnected cultural exoticisms (or “exotica”); while the various ruptures, surrealisms, “disturbing syncretisms,” and embedded critiques promote contemplation, personal investigation, and subversive thought.

Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7MS3QN