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ZakkaART: The nexus & remixing of art, design and consumerism

May, M. (2017) ZakkaART: The nexus & remixing of art, design and consumerism. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis/exegesis and practical project component focuses on the impact and development of key aspects of cultural production that changed the making, viewing and textual reading of art. It explores the context and the legacy of two significant artistic innovations. Firstly, Marcel Duchamp’s introduction of the “readymades” as objects taken from the “everyday” environment and redefined as “art”. Secondly, Pop art is investigated in relation to the movement’s embrace of commodity and consumerism. Combined, these related movements not only dismantled notions of what art might be but also served as precursors to the complex and overarching concepts of “Postmodernism” and “Post-Postmodernism”.

Recent developments in art, popular media, technology, design and critical theory are analysed to demonstrate the continued relevance and legacy of the readymades and Pop art. Drawing from the work of Nicholas Bourriaud, in particular, this exegesis foregrounds the cultural influence of design and how it continues to shape contemporary art and its impact upon my own visual arts practice.

The use of objects from the everyday are, by their very nature, manufactured and designed, thus embedded within commodity culture. Artists like myself who utilise these products are fusing elements popularised by the readymades and Pop art to re-create the materials into aesthetic and thematic objects and installations. These generative artworks implicitly interpret the fabricated world in which we live.

The project component consists of two solo exhibitions, Kaleidoscope (2009) and Zakka♥ (2012), and the duo showing (with artist Dawn Gamblen) of Plasticity (2010) which then developed into Synthetic (2011). Each exhibition explored ideas related to Pop art and the readymade by manipulating everyday items such as paper
and plastic objects. The works have a “zakka” (Japanese for “many things”) aesthetic which emphasises the everyday through the use of products to create wall works, site-specific and sculptural installations. These pieces demonstrate zakka — the beauty and significance of the manufactured — together with the relational dynamics of collaboration and the context of architectural space. Each exhibition utilised product multiples, echoing the manufactured and utilitarian nature of consumer goods as media for art-making. Collectively, the works of the artists I investigate in this thesis, alongside my own production component, can be considered “ZakkaART” — art that remixes industrial culture and its influences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): De Reuck, Jennifer
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