Alex Murdin


Exploring both political aesthetics and the politics of aesthetics to outline an environmental ruralism for art in public spaces, this practice lead research project postulates a “complemental practice”, outlining its methodology and contexts for operation, the rural, spaces of leisure and the public realm. It is a response to threats to spatial and environmental commons from heritage, place-making and nostalgia, psychological inhibition such as a sense of global contingency and widespread economic exploitation. Responses by artists to this situation can be characterised as a binary of dialogism (Kester, 2004) and relational antagonism (Bishop, 2004), i.e. consensual/collaborative or antagonistic/autonomous practices. Informing both is the work of Jacques Rancière who theorises an ethical and social turn in the arts. Through both commissioned and self-initiated projects this thesis offers an interpretation of Jacques Rancière’s conception of dissensus (Rancière, 2010) modulated through an application of the work of philosopher Slajov Žižek on environmental politics and complementarity - the inscription of the universal within the particular (Žižek, 2011). The thesis’ originality lies in this theoretical synthesis which sets out a complemental practice based on dissensus and the undecidability of subject and context, but which dismisses any inflexible schema of either aesthetic autonomy or ethico-political egalitarianism. In addition it suggests an approach to practice in this field and a situation for this - a dissensual infrastructure for the common public realm which is socially relational and evolutionary over time.

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