Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Dialogue as practice and understanding in contemporary art

posted on 2022-10-24, 15:53 authored by John Hammersley


This study investigates how social constructionist dialogue as art demonstrates a

layered mode of practical inquiry, which weaves together interactive and explorative,

re-presentational and reflective modes of dialogue in the performance of knowledge.

Recent art debates present dialogue as a relational, collaborative and situated mode

of meaning-making, and an alternative to traditional constraining frameworks of art.

However, artists have been criticised for idealised interpretations of dialogue, which

present it as something essentially good and democratic, for insufficiently

scrutinising dialogical relationships, and for not providing adequate process accounts

for secondary audiences.

This study's multi-layered performance of knowledge draws on thematic insights

developed through fourteen interviews and five field conversation artworks from

2008 onwards. Research material from conversational encounters was combined and

presented as three constructed written dialogues, which reflect the tensions and

questions that emerge out of enacting such a layered mode of dialogue as art. These

tensions are re-presented, and discussed in three central thematic chapters, which

frame these themes as issues of context, competing characteristics of meaningmaking

and relating. The constructed written dialogues provide a platform for further

discussion and reflective analysis, which in turn are proposed as an invitation to

continued dialogue and socially grounded interaction.

The central implication of this study's contribution to knowledge is that such an

approach to practice-led inquiry articulates how dialogue may contribute to the

increasing shift in critical art practices towards to more imbricated, uncertain, and

performative approaches to knowledge, and provide an alternative to essentialised

and foundationalist interpretations of dialogue.



  • School of Art and Design

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year


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