Homeward Longings: Contemporary Moving Image Figurations of Place

  • Janelle Hixon

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines a range of contemporary moving image work that explores the longing for a sense of place in an increasingly mediatized and globally connected world. The past three decades have seen a centering of the 'global' in art discourse through the emergence of a transnational art market, the proliferation of global exhibitions, and an increased diversification of art historical discourse. While this shift has led to greater visibility of art and artists beyond the Euro-American canon, it operates through a rhetoric of global inclusion dependent on modes of national and cultural belonging that puts pressure on artists to inflect a particular local accent in their work. The expanding reach of art discourse, and the global imaginary it contributes to, occurs in tandem with an acceleration and increased centrality of networked technology in everyday life. With its intimate relation to mediatized experience and a capacity to circulate widely at low-cost, the language of the moving image offers a unique platform for interrogating the global transformations of the past three decades. Positioned within a paradox in which diversification on a global scale is dependent on national and cultural legibility, this thesis considers the conceptualization of 'place' as an unstable category that obscures certain tensions with how the places we call home are lived, expressed, and contested. Through close readings of moving image work, I examine the multiple ways of being with, against, and outside 'home' as a way of troubling the assumptions of 'place' as fixed and coherent. In order to better navigate the fraught transnational character of contemporary art, I explore the relationship between 'home' and 'place' to ask if artistic engagements with notions of home and belonging might offer more nuanced and alternative approaches for thinking about 'place'. Contributing to scholarship questioning the liberatory promise of visibility and representation vis-a-vis the global character of contemporary art discourse, this thesis critically analyses the assumptions that underpin calls for globally inclusive representation and the politics of recognition they produce. Investigating the possibilities of place-making through resonances of longing, this thesis explores the concept of home in six chapters organized through three pairings. The first section examines Richard Fung's The Way to My Father's Village (1988); My Mother's Place (1990); Sea in the Blood (2000) and John Di Stefano's You Are Here (2010) to explore the relation between the family archive and the ideation of the home imaginary. The second section examines the disorienting affects of figuring home as it emerges across the interstices of personal memory and national discourses in Sigalit Landau's Barbed Hula (2000); DeadSee (2005); Day Done (2007) and Nazgol Ansarinia's Living Room (2005); Fragment 1 (2017) and Fragment 2 (2017). The final pairing turns to the figuration of future home imaginaries and the potential foreclosures they produce in Larissa Sansour's A Space Exodus (2008); Nation Estate (2012); In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain (2015) and Nuotama Frances Bodomo's Afronauts (2014). Across these six chapters, this thesis explores the tension between the singular figuration of 'place' and the multiple registers from which home and belonging emerge in the works discussed. The analysis of home through the out-of-reach structures of longing, here, generates nuanced understandings of place, with implications for debates about the transnational character of contemporary art that moves beyond the burdens of global relevance and national location.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJacqueline Stacey (Supervisor) & Luke Skrebowski (Supervisor)


  • John Di Stefano
  • Nazgol Ansarinia
  • Nuotama Frances Bodomo
  • Richard Fung
  • Larissa Sansour
  • global imaginary
  • Sigalit Landau
  • home
  • place making
  • belonging
  • video art
  • moving image
  • longing
  • contemporary art

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