Between Fear and Fascination: The Horrific in Women’s Contemporary Video Installation

Jenny Keane

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    The female body has historically been determined as the site of the
    frighteningly monstrous Other in phallocentric thought, and in terms of art
    practice the traditional female nude was represented as either pure or
    debased – yet through various modes of expanding and imploding the tropes
    of traditional horror films, some contemporary women artists have begun to
    investigate the fragmentation of the female body to evoke a new process of
    deciphering the dichotomous emotions of fear, disgust and desire.
    In a dialogical relationship between practice-based and written
    research, this thesis explores contemporary video installation case-studies in
    relation to early feminist art practices, lesbian representation, and
    psychoanalytical studies. The issues surrounding the classic cinematic
    representation of femininity cannot be avoided due to the cinematic
    conventions that have been assimilated into all moving image practice – thus
    to investigate the challenge of representing femininity, the concept of horror is
    examined through numerous sources, including film and literary theory,
    feminism, queer theory, and video art. While the discourse on horror films has
    been important, especially in relation to feminist theory, its recent connection
    to video installation has not been fully explored. I question whether video
    installation engenders a more direct and visceral response to horror due to its
    spatial and temporal interrelation, and posit that video installations can utilise
    visualisations of the horrific in an attempt to redefine the rigidity of binaries that
    are constructed in phallocentric culture.
    Through the thesis I propose that my practice, in relation to the work of the other artists examined, explores the liminal state of the body and employs a transgressive mode of spatio-temporality through video and video installation to engender new compelling ways of pushing the boundaries surrounding the fears and fascinations of sexual difference.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Ulster University
    • Rowley, Alison, Supervisor, External person
    • Campbell, David, Supervisor, External person
    • Chan, Suzanna , Supervisor, External person
    • MacLennan, Alastair , Supervisor, External person
    Award date31 May 2012
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • feminism
    • horror
    • fine art
    • video installation
    • other
    • Kristeva
    • Bracha-Ettinger
    • Freud
    • Queer theory
    • lesbian representation


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