Rose-Anne Gush

PhD Abstract

Figuring Austria’s Repressed Violence: Artistic Labour of the Body in the Work of Elfriede Jelinek and VALIE EXPORT

Starting from the works and essays by feminist artist VALIE EXPORT and author Elfriede Jelinek, this dissertation attempts to theorise a concept of artistic labour which includes the categories of the body, instinct, sublimation, repression and history. It brings the question of gender and the body into relation with Theodor Adorno’s concept of artistic labour in Aesthetic Theory (1970), where an artwork is understood as the congelation of useless social labour. My dissertation shows that on the one hand, the analysis of the body in this art is undertaken as a critique of women’s reduction to reproductive function or sexual-object. On the other, this art reflects on and works against the reduction of the human-body to material, in both the economic-process and in relation to the past. In this case, this refers to the horrors of National Socialism. This dissertation enquires into the meaning of artistic use of the body, within language, image and action, under racial-patriarchal-capitalism in postwar art. Moreover, it articulates the necessity of a feminism beyond ‘innocence’ and pure Otherness. The approach that I take attempts to move dialectically between critical interpretation, historical analysis and speculation. The works in question carry forward a historical response and proximity to the legacy of Nazism and its latent and pronounced continuity within the founding of the postwar nation state: The Second Republic of Austria. ‘Figuring Austria’s Repressed Violence’ is structured into five chapters which work through the following categories: identity, and the body as material; the limit of the body, expressed in relation to repression and shame and the Leib-Körper distinction; the concept of thinking-praxis in Feminist Actionism; the role of ‘woman’ and the uses of gender by fascism; the gendered dialectic of the sub-history of film and the ‘subterranean history of the body’ and lastly, on the concepts of history, fate and abstraction in relation to the politics of Heimat and nativism.



Rose-Anne Gush is an art historian and theorist. She lives and works in Vienna and London. After studying art practice and contemporary art theory at Goldsmiths College, she received her doctorate in art history from the University of Leeds in 2018. In her work she has focused on aesthetics and politics, the relationship between capitalism and form; psychoanalysis, feminism and critical theory; practices and concepts of negation; and concepts and histories of mediated violence in modern and contemporary art, literature and experimental film. She is currently writing her first book, Artistic Labour of the Body, which theorizes the place of the body in post-war art and literature in relation to some of the contradictions in Adorno's aesthetic theory. Her research has been published in Performance Research, AWARE, Objects of Feminism (Helsinki, 2017) and Philosophy of Photography, and an article in Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture and Art and Politics. Yearbook of the Guernica Society. Her essays and art criticism have appeared in publications such as Radical Philosophy, Art Monthly, Mute Magazine, Flash Art and art-agenda.