Sublime humility: Exploring the sublime through large wearable objects

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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70 + 2
Sublime Humility explores the intergral relationship between theories of the sublime, humility and the body. The thesis examines this relationship between theories, concerning disability and the sublime, and physicality, involving human-animal hybrids and large objects. Overall, it portrays the representation of the sublime through artistic means as an overwhelming experience provoking pleasure and displeasure. The thesis studies these subjects through the analysis of the artistic production, Sublime Humility, which took the form of two public Performances and an Exhibition, held at Aalto University, Finland in January 2020. Sublime Humility, the performance, experimented in the fusion of art, costume and stage design through large wearable objects. The performance involved three performers wearing three ‘Object Legs’, which were inspired by animal, human and fictitious forms, portraying dysfunctional bodies through a sculptural approach. The intention was to decentralise the human orientated perspective by reducing the performer to a body and appreciating the visual nature of a ‘Large Object’. The thesis asks, how could the sublime teach us humility? What happens when you extend the body and dissolve the ego? Sublime Humility sets out to investigate the function of the sublime, the use of the dysfunctional body and why a sense of humility could be beneficial. The analysis of these different subjects connects them together and provides the grounds from which a personal theory is proposed. Together, the artistic production and written thesis answer these two questions, using two methodologies of Artistic practice as research. One methodology began with the thesis questions and from this point, relevant materials were gathered in the aim of answering them. The second methodology was led by my artistic practice, analysing the making process to find elements that were reoccurring. The personal theory of this thesis proposes that the experience of the sublime can produce a feeling of humility, which can be of benefit. To experience the sublime is to encounter something that is physically or mentally greater than us. The encounter causes the viewer to feel physically small, in comparison to such large objects, and mentally overwhelmed, through the struggle to comprehend the forces at play. This experience produces a feeling of humility, which can be defined as a freedom from understanding the incomprehensible nature of the sublime. This strives towards humility as an ideal, because it can benefit individuals, through more personal satisfaction, and help those around, through an appreciation of their contribution to the world.
Ikonen, Liisa
Thesis advisor
Keski-Hakuni, Pipsa
the sublime, body, humility, object, disability, animal, wearable art, posthumanism
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