Rosemarie Trockel: The Problem of Becoming

  • Katherine Guinness

Student thesis: Phd


Rosemarie Trockel: The Problem of Becoming is a theoretical investigation of the artwork of contemporary German artist Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952). Although Trockel is best known for her knit canvas works made throughout the 1980s, she has a remarkably large oeuvre which utilizes almost every artistic medium possible - from video and film work, to public monuments, painting, earthworks, sculpture, drawing, installation art, book-making, photography, and even robotics. Trockel's artwork is constantly changing stylistically and thematically, which makes her work difficult to write about but is also what makes her work unique. By opening up a multiplicity of readings that refuse a fixed symbolic order, her art represents a continuous state of becoming other. Ultimately this project claims that Rosemarie Trockel's artwork exemplifies a 'virgulian' subjectivity and an aesthetics of becoming. This project reads Trockel's art through the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, as well important feminist and queer theorists such as Griselda Pollock, Teresa de Lauretis, Marguerite Duras, Simone de Beauvoir, and Monique Wittig. It also uses the theoretical construct of the virgule as an alternative to common art historical methods such as gender, culture, biography, historicity, or intentionality. The virgule is a theoretical construct (representing both an aesthetic mode or style and a form of subjectivity), which is, ultimately, a new way of reading works of art and literature. Each chapter of this thesis demonstrates different ways in which the virgule operates within Rosemarie Trockel's artwork. Chapter one, 'BB/BB', centres on Trockel's vitrine work 'The Bardot Box' (1993), in which Trockel combines Brigitte Bardot and Bertolt Brecht. These two figures are used to explore concepts of myth, fandom, the rhizome, and adolescence. Chapter two, 'Mermaid/Angel', looks at Trockel's sculpture Pennsylvania Station (1987), which is usually read as relating to the Holocaust. Here, instead, the work will be looked at in relation to fairy tales and mythological creatures. It will also demonstrate Trockel's fascination with the history of art and how women's bodies are constructed throughout that history. Chapter three, 'Domestic/Violence', discusses how Trockel's work can relate to historical German events (namely, the activities of terrorist Group the Red Army Faction). It also demonstrates her interest in uncovering forgotten histories and people. Chapter four, 'Body/Machine', explains how Trockel's sculptural machine Painting Machine and 56 Brushstrokes bridges the divide between mechanical production and the handmade. This chapter also discusses the very different ways in which Trockel's work portrays bodies (visceral versus clinical). The concluding chapter of Rosemarie Trockel: The Problem of Becoming, 'Across the/Continental Divide' places Trockel's video work 'Continental Divide' (1994) in dialogue with Monique Wittig's novel Across the Acheron, to show how the virgule operates as a subject position, and to demonstrate the limits of a virgulian subjectivity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCarol Mavor (Supervisor) & Mark Crinson (Supervisor)


  • Rosemarie Trockel
  • Art History
  • Deleuze and Guattari
  • Monique Wittig
  • German Art

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