Louise O’Hare is a researcher, writer and organiser. She was an editor at Afterall from 2013-17, and completed her PhD at University of Northumbria in 2019. Her research focused on the contemporary political potentials of writing feminist art histories; representations of socialism and self-pleasure; Artforum’s ‘Muddled Marxist’ moment; and processes of disciplining, all through the lens of a singular artwork – Centrefold (1974) by Lynda Benglis. The project was preoccupied with modes of telling – memoir, gossip and anecdote, and the poetics of manifesto writing. Current research engages with an expanded vision of the caring economy, which necessarily involves continuing to consider perceptions of idleness, gender, and what constitutes work. O’Hare co-curated ‘Safe’, HOME, Manchester 2015; and founded the London Bookshop Map in 2011 as a platform to disseminate writing by artists. Earlier work engaged with embarrassment, the rhetorics and practicalities of ‘self publishing’, and the interstices between the print and digital in small-scale art publishing. Recent publications include: ‘Havana-London Diary: Art Publishing, Sustainability, Free Speech and Free Papers’ in Whose Book Is it Anyway? (2019), and an article on re-telling, re-performance, and Amor Rojo (Red Love) – Dora García’s Alexandra Kollontai-themed film essay (Art Monthly, May 2020).
This thesis ‘writes with’ Lynda Benglis’s Centrefold (1974) its associated works and practices, irreverently performing politics, working relationships, pleasure and non-work, within a site of art discourse. Centrefold continues to circulate as an expanded performance, as gossip (even as its gossip) and the text explores the way this transgressive act has been both disciplined and recuperated. Attending to Centrefold’s particularity as pornography, as a gesture, a provocation and a published document that includes its own paratext (a caption), means performing a writing practice that engages with marginalia, latent meanings, masturbation, gossip and the problematics and potentials of self-historicisation and anecdote. ‘Writing with’ Centrefold means playing with the currency of autobiographical fictions, making visible the body of the artist to produce equivocal performances of sexual identity, social networks and professional relationships. This engagement with the contemporaneity of Centrefold as subject and object, shifts between interpretations of its original political context and that of the narrator, a female art worker and Labour Party member living in Tower Hamlets, London and undertaking a practice-based PhD. ‘Writing with’ Centrefold means taking it as a model, and the associative highly referenced approach posits a writerly parallel to Benglis’s post- minimalist sculptural practice, building an anti-disciplinary web of synchronic comparisons – a performance of embodied inquiry. The writing references and utilises New Narrative writing practices alongside queer and feminist epistemological tactics that insert the author’s desiring body into art histories and fantasise connections (Holly Pester, 2017). Centrefold is considered alongside acts of institutional critique that polarising discourses have separated it from, placing it within a framework of feminised labour, where struggles for revaluation of care are positioned parallel to reflections on the value of the administrative maintenance work on feminist art histories, performed by the thesis itself.
Awarded Date: 31/07/2019
Principal Supervisor: Tom O’Sullivan
Second Supervisor: Mark Jackson
Additional Supervisor: Joanne Tatham