Breaking as making: In what ways can making sculpture contribute to understanding perceptions and experiences of breaking?

Research output: Thesis (awarded by external institution)Doctoral Thesis


Through processes of making and breaking in sculpture and writing I explore experiences, concepts and perceptions of breaking. ‘Breaking’ is the main theme running through my work but it arises in many different contexts and I deal with it on different planes. My research simultaneously explores and draws parallels between personal experiences in life: breaking bones, making/breaking sculpture and philosophical concepts of the break. In addition, breaking has become my methodology. Since both methodology and subject are ‘breaking’, each contributes to the understanding of the other.

In 2006 I broke my collarbone three times, my wrist and my hand and when I returned to making sculpture I could only relate to my previous artwork by breaking it. By using autoethnographic approaches to foreground my subjectivity I describe a shift from health to injury. A corresponding change in my aesthetic understanding reflects a shift from a sense of a whole self to a fragile, broken one and a further perception of the coherence of the whole as inauthentic. The physical act of breaking in my sculptures then creates a further new subject position, that of the breaker, and that is in tension with my normative social position as a woman. In reflecting on the unexpected experience of power through breaking I explore the creative potential of this position for the female artist.

I propose that physical breaking can shift the self towards the uncertainty of the ‘void’ by introducing the new subject positions of breaker and broken. The void is articulated as the break between established structures. Its relative freedom creates both risk and creativity, and evidences multiple subject positions associated with lived and de-centred experience. Giving to others the experience of breaking reciprocally benefits my artwork by introducing multiple subject positions and shifting it towards the void.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Arts London
  • Norwich University of the Arts
  • MacLennan, George, Supervisor, External person
  • Simmons, Tom, Supervisor, External person
  • Lyons, Trish , Supervisor, External person
Award date1 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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