Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Art and Visual Culture


David Merritt


This practice-based research project focuses on selected contemporary moving image practices that work with strategies of experimental documentary, essayistic filmmaking, and site-specific installation. It focuses on the specific tactics employed by three artists, Dani ReStack, Rachel Rose and Diana Thater. The forms and strategies employed in these practices are analyzed through case studies of ReStack’s Draft 9 (2003), Rose’s Sitting Feeding Sleeping (2013), and Thater’s Delphine (1999). The specific purpose of this research is to illuminate how these contemporary moving image practices describe subjective experience, in both single-channel and installation forms, to critically engage with anthropocentric and humanist notions of subjectivity and human exceptionalism. The research examines the use of essayistic strategies like voice-over and text-on-screen and the activation of the embodied and sensorial qualities of moving images, particularly in reference to how they have been analyzed in the context of phenomenological film theory by Vivian Sobchack, Jennifer M. Barker, and Laura U. Marks. These practices use the sensorial, affective, and embodied potential of moving images, and the tactics of moving image installation, to foreground the materiality of the body as the foundation of subjective experience. They also employ this materiality as a strategy for undermining boundaries and hierarchical relationships between human and nonhuman realms. This research, led by a practice-based perspective, creates an interdisciplinary dialogue between these contemporary practices and the theoretical frameworks of critical posthumanism, particularly new materialism. It specifically uses reconfigurations of subjectivity and humanness as they’ve been proposed by Rosi Braidotti, Elizabeth Grosz, Patricia MacCormack, and Donna Haraway.

Summary for Lay Audience

This research takes an art practice perspective on selected contemporary moving image artists and specific artworks. It analyzes the way these artists use essayistic filmmaking and installation art to describe the artist’s subjective experience with a focus on the body and senses. It looks at case studies of Dani ReStack’s Draft 9 (200), Rachel Rose’s Sitting Feeding Sleeping (2013), and Diana Thater’s Delphine (1999). The focus of this research is to analyze how contemporary practices, through using specific strategies of essayistic filmmaking and installation, could think critically about historical notions of subjectivity and humanness.

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Art Practice Commons