The intention of this part practice/part theoretical research is to examine if it is
possible to make visible a hidden history of workers’ lives in Kingston using a fine art
strategy. The investigation examines the occlusion of working-class experience and
the writing out of working-class histories, and considers the capacity of fine art
imagery to intervene in a process of the recovery of those histories. It considers the
way in which found photographs leave some trace of those hidden or unwritten
histories, and how their manipulation and alternative rendering using traditional
painting methods and performance can create elements of those histories, and
recoup lost experiences. It does this through a study of the official self-representation
of the historical roots and development of one London Borough, Kingston-upon-
Thames, through a consideration of what lies behind the collection and display policy
of its Museum and municipal archives, and its Heritage Centre.
In the first chapter the concept of hidden histories is investigated with an overview of
the theoretical material. The investigation uses Marxist critics who suggest, as does
Hobsbawm, that history is formed by the construction of different narratives. Using
The Arcades Project and Illuminations,, Walter Benjamin’s ideas on history and art
are used to reflect on the philosophical problem of representing the past. Foucault's
work is mobilised because of his identification of the way that social institutions
produce dominant paradigms of knowledge, and the ways in which these paradigms
establish hierarchical power relations.
In the second chapter, the ideas and works of some current artists who use
strategies of recuperation within their practice, are presented and located. Since the
end of the twentieth century, the investigation and depiction of memory, hidden
history and invisibility have become major sites of interrogation for artists no less
than for theorists and historiographers.
The third chapter explores how the process of working class occlusion occurs
through an examination of the recording, exhibiting and depiction of the official
history of one Borough in London, Kingston upon Thames.
The final chapter questions how visual art practice might contribute to the process of
revealing hidden history. The chapter records the practical research process. The
mediums used included photography, painting, digital drawing and re-enactment to
retrace the excluded lives of the working class. The theoretical inspirations that
sustain the construction and exhibition of the art practice are examined, and the
success or failure of that investigation is evaluated.
|Date of Award||Aug 2016|