Mourning Sites ________ Performing Ineffable Spaces of Ruin

O'Hara, Emily
O'Connor, Maria
Nikolai, Jennifer
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This practice-led PhD explores spatio-temporal conditions arising in processes of mourning, attuning these processes to the project’s spatial-poetics or site-writings. In doing so my PhD relates the experiences of death and mourning to language and its other (silence or ineffability), providing an existential ground to my practice. Language becomes a performance ground for translating (its) spatial structural cues into my performance installations: A practice that resides most formally within disciplines of spatial design and visual arts and their discourses of architecture and art. The philosophical thinking of Martin Heidegger circulates around language as a human dwelling and the ontological disclosure of truth as unconcealing in the withdrawal of being (Aletheia). Heidegger’s thinking on the everyday sites Being’s withdrawal in ‘her’ movement of unconcealing, and deepens the thesis’ analysis of death and mourning. The feminine signifying of Being’s withdrawal as Aletheia’s movement constructs my conceptual personae through dialogue with the philosophical psychoanalytic terrain of Luce Irigaray: Irigaray sounds the language event of Being otherwise to a masculine self-sameness, locating within language structural fissures and gaps for detouring feminine otherness. In listening to these others (of Heidegger and Irigaray) my research locates a deeply feminine trace of my own mourning-song in its matrilineal voice. Aletheia’s movement becomes my feminine truth for unconcealing this mourning legacy. It is a maternal mourning legacy mined in the philosophical and textual practice of Roland Barthes, subjectively expressed in unexpected and uncanny arrivals within the details of everyday life. These mourning arrivals are set against a wider conversation on the everyday, conceived as a site of disappearance through the work of Maurice Blanchot in dialogue with Juhani Pallasmaa: Arrivals and departures express ontological movements of Aletheia in her truth of everyday mourning. This movement is deepened in dialogues (across Heidegger and Françoise Dastur) to distinguish ontological differences between death and mourning. Yve Lomax brings sharper focus to ineffability as a dialogical spatio-temporal ontological event.

This research practice expresses its performative (shifting) ground through processes gathered as site-writings. It is a term conceptually and methodologically put into research play in dialogue with Jane Rendell and Walter Benjamin, both of whom work across sites of ruin. Further, this term refers to my performance and installation approach to poetics as a spatial condition activated ‘silently’ in syntactical structures, which provide moments of absence, difference, eclipses (and ellipses), interstitial gaps and aporia. The project sharpens its spatial poetics as these ‘relational’ lacunae open onto two distinct conceptual moments: ‘without alibi’ and ‘umbra-writing’ (or dark-writing). ‘Without alibi’ reveals ec-static spatio-temporal expression within my practice, opening an invitation for visitors to enter into (their) fundamental (existential) solitude without firm grounds for representing wherein or when this solitude dwells. Its philosophical ear comes by way of the writing of Jacques Derrida. ‘Umbra-writing’ expresses relations between our essential solitude through bringing close proximity between cosmological and everyday life: It is a proximity made explicit in the specific sites of urban ruins that hold correspondences to mourning expressed within my performance installation practice. Installation performance practitioner Lee Mingwei is key for bringing attention to the everyday as a site of mourning. John Cage’s sound practice draws proximity for existential silence within site-specific programming. Further, the creative practices of James Turrell (specifically his Skyspaces project), Katie Paterson’s Future Library project, Antony Gormley’s Another Place, Olafur Eliasson’s Ice Watch and Wolfgang Laib’s Pollen from Hazelnut all hold significance for their ecological and cosmological resonance. The performance work of Marina Abramovic brings insight into relations of extended durational and participatory practices within everyday contexts. Significant resonance for my ‘umbra-writing’ is located cinematically in the practices of Michelangelo Antonioni and Douglas Gordon. With the ear of the other, the PhD listens to ineffable sayings of mourning dwelling within urban ruins, materialising its processes of performance installation that culminate in a final ‘dual site’ exhibition: Between two________.

Mourning , Ruins , Urban , Otherness
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