Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Creative Arts


This practice-led research project, Weapon of Choice: Installation Art and the Politics of Emotion, explores the complex set of relations between the felt, social-political and mythosacral spheres involved in migration. The project asks how installation art can be the means for responding in Australia to the feeling encountered in moving between Poland and Australia. Critical inquiries into this question reveal the links between feeling and politics, and show how systems of knowledge shape human and mythical bodies as well as the borders between secular and sacred spaces. More specifically, the research asks how the established institutions of a place claim control over the borders between visible and invisible worlds, involving secular and sacred spheres, as well as between inner and outer territories. The project investigates how traditional Polish folk devotional practices and contemporary art practices, such as those of Ilya Kabakov, Marina Abramović, Louise Bourgeois, and Magdalena Abakanowicz, resist the politics of control over those boundaries.

This critical inquiry has brought together a variety of interconnected methodological approaches and theoretical tools to produce a visual art installation and a thesis. With an underpinning of practice-led research (Carter 2004; Smith & Dean 2009; Sullivan 2010), the study has further drawn on methodological approaches for investigating the felt dimensions (affect, emotion and sensation) of place and of artworks (Williams, R 1960, 1961, 1977; Stoller 1997, 1989; Bennett 2005). The theoretical framework focused on recent trans-disciplinary scholarship attending to feeling, including the affective, emotional and sensory registers of the body, in relation to migratory experiences, intercultural living and the history of installation art (Classen 1997, 2005; Massumi 2002; Howes 2003, 2005, 2007; Ahmed 2004; Thrift 2004; Law 2005; McKay 2005; Ticineto Clough 2007).

The practical component of the studio research comprised installation art works involving cycles of multi-sensory, affective and emotional experiments arising out of theoretical, ethnographic and historical research. Collaborative and independent art-making since 2007 (Spill 2007, Raising the Dead 2008, Contact 2009, Frenzy Episode 2010, Last Exile 2011) resulted in a series of public installations and exhibitions of sculptural objects, paintings, and textiles. Through Weapon of Choice a number of key principles and strategies have emerged as significant in responding to the institutional politics of boundaries encountered in moving between Poland and Australia. Particular strategies of installation art are the total immersive, ritualistic and fragmented narrative modes (Onorato 1997; Kabakov, Tupitsyn & Tupitsyn 1999; Warr 2000; Geczy & Genocchio 2001; Oliveira 2003; Bishop 2005; Heartney 2008; Franke 2010). The Weapon of Choice installation deploys these strategies to construct a critical space for encountering the Polish mytho-sacred realm in Australia.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.