Monash University

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Repetition and rupture: a collision of natural disasters, technological disasters and art

posted on 2017-02-28, 00:15 authored by Norman, Ceallaigh Gabriel
I grew up in a family that possessed two symbols of warfare: an old carved taiaha (a Maori pointed staff weapon) and my father's Royal Navy sword. Both are ceremonial - beautiful objects created to celebrate acts and threats of violence. These objects symbolise the influences that have formed me as an artist. My intention in this research is to examine the interconnections of art and a whole range of disasters, not only those caused by wars. Disasters can be caused by nature: the vagaries of weather, tectonic and volcanic activity. Others have been legacies of war, industrialisation and the accidents caused by any number of human activities. The title of this research project is Repetition and Rupture: a Collision of Natural Disasters, Technological Disasters and Art. In this exegesis I aim to contextualise my studio practice using these themes as structuring ideas. Repetition in the context of my research refers to our habitual responses of how we perceive and interpret reality, and through this habituation, how our view of reality is obscured. We experience the past while anticipating the future; however, our perception fails to match the reality of the present, fuelling our inability to foresee the consequences of our own actions. Rupture, in the context of my research, is the unexpected revealing of impermanence, of cause and effect, providing us with the opportunity to view reality with more clarity. Natural disasters are ruptures that are a part of the reality of our lives. They are ruptures as they confirm our illusions of stability and permanence. My studio research work consists of video with original soundtracks as well as two dimensional works on paper. I identified, through the process and history of my own work, an interconnection between natural and technological disasters and art. My practice draws on memories and experiences from my past and my family history that are pivotal in shaping the way in which I see the world. I have endeavored to contextualise these with commentaries on relevant artists and theorists, giving emphasis to artists and writers whose visions of a world of decay and instability echo my own perceptions. In Chapter One: Repetition and disaster in art, I investigate the notion of disaster in relation to repetition. I examine Andy Warhol's Death and Disaster series, Deleuze's writing on repetition, and incorporate my own experiences growing up on the Pacific Rim of Fire. In Chapter Two: Gunkanjima - a rupture of technological disaster, I examine the destructive legacy of industrialisation and its aftermath by retracing my father's footsteps to Nagasaki and focus on the extraordinary island of Gunkanjima. Here, I examine the theories of Paul Virilio and discuss relevant works by Bill Viola and Andrei Tarkovsky. Representing instability of the accident, whether it is technological or natural, has challenged me to explore what it is that the accident or disaster can reveal to us, and how this is, and can be, represented in art.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Caroline Durre

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Fine Art

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

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