Anneke Ingwersen: Shadow Investigations

Thesis Advisor: Bassam El Baroni

June 2015


In this thesis, I suggest that the inherent qualities of the shadow could be a practical model of thinking for artists dealing with identity politics. 

In the past the ‘silhouette’, the arrested brother of the shadow, was used in the construction of the Enlightened subject in the emerging nation states. This metaphor is in stark contrast to ‘The Fleeting Nature of the Shadow’ which I propose as an example of postmodern subjectivity. Discovering that ‘the mirror’ and ‘the shadow’ serve both as metaphors for the processes of identification and differentiation I found alternative views on subjectivity helped by psychoanalytical discourse and post-colonial theory. I look at how artists can engage with this comprehensive discourse without re-constructing it and uncover successful examples which use counterstrategies to challenge identity politics and the hegemonic way of representation. Felix Guattari’s concept of ‘Becoming’, together with Stuart Hall’s genealogy of the subject forms the theoretical backbone of this argument. 

Moving away from predictable references such as Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ I consider the Chinese aesthetic principle of ‘The Penumbra’ and its proposition of reticence – ‘holding back’, where the potential of the shadow lies. Finally, focusing on the concept of ‘The Illuminating Shadow’ I ask: What can this reversed shadow show in regard to my main topic and have found a similar function as that of the x-ray image – to show parts which tend to be hidden.