Clarissa Regan

Getting Messy With Clay, Paint & Charcoal: An Abject Argument for Creative Embodiment


My paper concerns the effects of digital culture upon contemporary society: how the relentless technological drive towards a screen-based culture privileges sight over other, more subtle and varied senses such as the haptic (our sense of touch). This paper argues for a recognition of the value of a multi-sensorial way of being. Making art – specifically the pure physicality of using one’s body to work with expressive materials such as clay, paints, oils and chalk – is a potent antidote to an increasingly cerebral approach to communication. The elevation of the ideal body in today’s mass media, and the digital manipulation of imagery, creates an unreal landscape divorced from the messy, abject reality of our corporeal bodies. I will draw upon philosophical arguments about the nature of the physicality of the body, from Bakhtin’s idea of the grotesque and Kristeva’s concept of the abject, to put forward the idea that artists embodied in the creative materiality of their chosen field offer an alternative to the growing tendency to preference the mind over the direct lived experience of the body.

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Clarissa Regan:

Clarissa Regan is an artist and PhD candidate at Sydney University, the Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney University. She is researching the effects of digital screen culture upon contemporary society. Clarissa is a practicing artist who works in the area of figurative ceramics. She also teachers part time at Sydney University, at TAFE and at community art groups, as well as running workshops in print transfer techniques in ceramics. She has exhibited widely in NSW, in regional galleries such as Hazelhurst, Casula Powerhouse and the Shoalhaven Gallery, as well as in artist-run co-operatives such as the Inner City Clayworkers Gallery. Her work was recently featured in 500 Vases (Lark Books, 2010). She holds a Master of Visual Arts from SCA (2009) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the National Art School (2006).