Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Claire Farago

Second Advisor

Hanna Rose Shell

Third Advisor

James Córdova


As people are faced with imposed precarity in contemporary society, it is imperative that art be reclaimed as a tool for the assertion of counter-narratives and expressions of agency. In this thesis, I utilize theories of affect and materiality toward the analysis of three case studies in contemporary art to consider how they could contradict or counter the affective consequences of oppressive structures and the imposition of exclusivist narratives. First, I discuss the public art project Monument Lab for its interrogation of the role of monuments in contemporary society. As an ongoing, participatory project, Monument Lab affirms the coexistence of diverse experiences of American history, resisting retrospective oversimplification by which the durational effects of past events are obscured. In the second chapter, I analyze the immersive installation Untitled (of occult instability) [feelings] by South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape. In contrast to scholarship that posits the authoritative ability of artists and museums to direct viewers, I argue for a recognition of art experiences as a generative exchange informed by the diverse agencies of the artist, the audience, and the work itself. Finally, I examine the social media application Vine as an emergent medium for creative expression. Through this short-lived form of networked technology, young people of color cultivated a digital community for emotional uplift and the creation of an alternative archive of daily life in resistance to the affective pressure of larger-scale structural forces. Thus, I aim to demonstrate that art experiences are meaning-generating, reciprocal exchanges between diverse agencies, and thus a powerful and flexible medium for the assertion of counter-narratives and expressions of agency.