Some otherwhere : Édouard Glissant and the Caribbean landscape in contemporary art
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Over the past two decades, Édouard Glissant’s writings have gained ever-increasing prominence in the fields of post-colonial theory, Caribbean studies, and Francophone literature. They have also been widely used in art and exhibition practice as a ‘tool-kit’ for the display of works relating to themes of globalisation, migration, and diaspora. Glissant was interested and engaged in the arts during his lifetime, but it is not, however, this work that has gained in popularity. Instead, short quotations from his theoretical texts, or isolated terms, including ‘opacity’, ‘relation’, and ‘creolisation’, are utilised in extraction. This thesis returns to the conceptual possibilities of Glissant’s geo-poetic terms for the analysis of art that conveys the Caribbean landscape. Although it is undeniable that Glissant’s writings have a global resonance, his central and repeating tropes are fundamentally embedded in the imagery and experience of the Caribbean archipelago. Against the aims of a colonial project that rationalises and stabilises through the instrumentalisation and control of nature, Glissant’s concept of the Otherwhere – a space that is simultaneously lived and imagined – is proposed throughout this research as a lens through which to incorporate post-colonial discourse within the analysis of identity, ecology, and visual art. In so doing, my work exposes the limits of schemas of visibility and representation that preclude multiplicity and performativity, and offers imaginative ways of figuring relations between individuals and their encounters with landscapes. Under the chapters ‘The Sea’, ‘The Archipelago’, ‘The Spiral of Return and the Common-Place’, ‘Retaining Opacity while Communicating with the Tout-monde’, and ‘The Unrealised Museum’, works by well-known practitioners including John Akomfrah, Janine Antoni, and Coco Fusco are read alongside those of lesser-known artists who work within, from, and between islands of the Caribbean, including: Nadia Huggins, Stacey Tyrell, Ewan Atkinson, and Annalee Davis. In media ranging between photography, moving-image, and performance, these artists share a concern with environmentalism, climate change, community, and the experience of personal identity in relation to the specificities of place. Relational post-colonial ecologies framed through landscape imagery therefore call for analysis and modes of display that are carefully positioned between the aesthetic and the political – a process that is destabilising to perception, and which raises timely questions about precarity, progress, (in)visibility, and belonging.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-11-13
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 13th November 2025
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