Philomena Epps (UCL) - 2022-23 Students

Erotic Objects, Erogenous Zones: Fetishism and Sexual Difference (1957-1986)

My project concerns the relationship between fetishism and sexual difference, focused on the work of British artist Rose English (b. 1950), Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow (1926–1973), and American artist Hannah Wilke (1940–1993). Despite working in varying cultural and geographical contexts, I consider their kindred response to the socio-political environment, affected by accelerated consumerism, post-war cultural production, and the sexual revolution. By positioning their work in dialogue, the research examines their artistic engagement with commodity culture, eroticism, and spectacle, opening up a novel field of enquiry regarding libidinal drives, sexuality, and the social construction of gender. Strategies of ambivalence, humour, and irony will be framed in relation to the politics of pleasure and consumption. Their shared artistic interest in merging the corporeal with everyday objects, representing the body as both commercial and sexual fetish object, reinforces the basis of their grouping. Their dissolution of boundaries and blurring of binaries, thereby staging the body as a landscape of indeterminate erogenous zones, will also be considered. The research will relate this mutability to the multidisciplinary output of the artists, integrating an analysis of drawing, painting, and sculpture, alongside dance, performance, and video. By uniquely looking at the aspect of fetishism that connects English, Szapocznikow, and Wilke, this original project will build on recent scholarship informed by feminist and psychoanalytic theories.

Primary supervisor: Prof. Mignon Nixon, UCL
Secondary supervisor: Prof. Tamar Garb, UCL

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