Daniel Mafe

Affect and Inarticulacy: The Silent Voice of the Artist


This paper is based on a practice-led research project I conducted into the artist’s ‘voice’ as part of my PhD. The artist’s ‘voice’ is, I argue, comprised of a dual motivation—’articulate’ representation and ‘inarticulate’ affect—two things which do not necessarily derive from the artist; two things that are in effect, trans-subjective. Within this paper I will explore the ‘inarticulate’ through the later Lyotard’s affect-phrase, in conjunction with the example of my own painting and digital arts practice, to show just how this unknown can be mapped and understood as generative.

As a visual artist my primary interest is in abstraction; I am curious about the emergence of pictorial significance and content from affect’s seemingly unknowable space. My studio practice occasions a sense of borderlessness, and uncertainty where each work or body of work ‘leaks’ into the next, exploring the unfamiliar through the powerful and restless discursive silence of affect. It is within this silence that is performed the disturbing yet generative disconnect that is the affect-phrase. This I contend is apparent in art’s manifest materiality that is, its degree of abstraction and muteness. For the later Lyotard, affect disrupts articulation by injuring or violating the rules of the genres of discourse. For this to be evident one needs to attend to the subtleties of how affect may ‘animate’ discourse. In other words how affect’s discursive disruption activates art’s resistance to definitive interpretation generating even demanding diverse ‘meaning’ creation for art, the abstract, and critical discourse.

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Daniel Mafe:

Daniel Mafe studied and exhibited in London from 1979 until 1990. Since his return to Australia he has exhibited regularly and currently shows with Jan Manton Art in Brisbane. He is represented in public collections including the Museum of Fine Art, Ostende, the Queensland Art Gallery, Artbank, and Bailleau-Myer Collection. His research interests include practice-led research and contemporary visual art with a focus on abstraction. In 2011 his PhD, Rephrasing Voice: Art, Practice-led Research and the Limits and Sites of Articulacy, was given an outstanding thesis award by QUT. It explored the dual motivation comprising the ‘artist’s voice’ and its subsequent value for research. Daniel is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Arts for Art and Design with the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT.