Date of Award

9-1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Graham Knight

Abstract

This dissertation examines practices of cultural resistance and subversion among marginalized cultural producers within the context of theories of hegemony (Gramsci,1988; Hall, 1986) and theories of discourse (Barthes, 1975; de Certeau, 1984; Fiske, 1989). It is a study of the struggle to produce and circulate meanings in the shadow of dominant discourses which may tend to contain alternative cultural production practices. It is also a study of a unique art world that poses a threat to the larger art world and the social, political and economic foundations upon which that larger art world rests. The empirical focus is the social world of Canadian cultural producers who call themselves video artists. A methodology of participant observation in combination with archival research and textual analysis is used. This project is also an attempt to clarify the methodological directions appropriate for studies of discourse and hegemony. I argue that video art practices are a form of subversive deviance that threatens the institutions which produce dominant discourses such as the institution of television. I attempt to demonstrate that these threats are met with containment strategies which range from selective appropriation of aesthetic and technical innovations, to enticement into the agendas of power which support dominant discourses. I conclude that these containment strategies are effective, but incomplete and have left video artists with relatively minor, but nonetheless significant, victories in the arena of cultural production. This study also has important theoretical implications regarding theories of television production and consumption. Video artists are shown to use the medium of video in ways which point out the contradictions inherent within the institution of television, an institution which uses the same medium. The cultural context of production and consumption is shown to be the decisive variable in constructing the differences between video art and television.

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