Rethinking The Status Of The Art Object Through Distribution

I have recently published my thesis online at the academia website. It is in two volumes. Volume 1: Text and Volume 2: Visual.


University of Southampton
Faculty of Business, Law and Art
Winchester School of Art
Doctor of Philosophy
Rethinking the Status of the Art Object Through Distribution
by Walter van Rijn

Current discourse about internet based art practices brings renewed interest to the materiality of the art object and the exhibition event. Digital and internet artists reflecting on the institutionalisation of the internet find that the turn away from the world of the institutionalised gallery has become untenable, and now create artwork that functions in both realms: the gallery and online. My research acknowledges this dual approach and proposes that accordingly areas of interest, such as negation and the material condition of the art object within conceptual art, institutional critique, and internet art should be reconsidered.
By means of a practice-led artistic research methodology and based on the above context, the artist-researcher initiated a research process focused on how the distribution of art can enable us to rethink the traditional status of the art object. Integrating theory and practice led to an approach to art practice where distribution is integral to the doing and making of art. In my proposal, dispersal – or spreading the art object over multiple platforms, some of which lies beyond the exhibition event – is seen as an act of self-determination by the artist and a means to create objects with an ambiguous ontology or material condition. This proposal is developed and tested in several situations inside and outside the gallery, online, and as tools applied to text. From my research emerged a new practice I call a dispersal practice, and the dispersed object becomes a project that consists of multiple entities that are located on, or circulate through, different platforms. Some entities might appear in different forms at different times. My research finds that the functioning of the dispersed object within the artworld raises permanent questions about the status of the art object in terms of its materiality and status as art. My research finds also that the dispersed art object needs to be seen as both process and object. The dispersed object can be authorised by the artist to have the following characteristics: distributed, unlocated, circulating and ambiguous, a hybrid object structured through modularity. It becomes exposed and performed through a succession of events in different configurations. These are the temporary conditions of the dispersed art object. The research concludes with a project in collaboration with the John Hansard Gallery that demonstrates the dispersed object.
Keywords: art object, dispersion, dispersal practice, distribution, institutionalisation, status of the art object, conceptual art, institutional critique, digital, internet, process, materiality, hybrid, ambiguous object, digital object, symbiosis, archive, aggregation.

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