Not fully present: Five artworks by Maddie Leach

2018 – 2021
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Communication and Creative Arts
Deakin University, Melbourne

Professor David Cross
Dr Antonia Pont

Professor Bruce Barber (NSCAD, Halifax, Canada)
Dr Emily LaBarge (Royal College of Art, London, UK)
Professor Henk Slager (University of the Arts, Utrecht, Netherlands)

My PhD by Prior Publications was a composition of five artistic projects I produced between 2008 and 2019. The text identifies persistent methodological tendencies in my artistic practice that combine an obstinate attachment to making something happen and willing cooperation with incompleteness, inconclusion, and variation. A central question emerges of how commitment to an artistic decision is maintained while also leaving things undecided. Together these five projects offer a contribution to sculptural-conceptual practice with a clear lineage to site-specific and place-based practices. What is distinctive is the way each project demonstrates sustained fidelity to an artistic idea while remaining attuned to encounters with uncertainty— functional absences—that play an integral role in challenging, reorienting, or strengthening the project’s logical operation and public reception. The term functional absence is a re-working of James Meyer’s notion of functional site inflected towards Alain Badiou’s concept of the void, which he develops from set theory. Demonstrating this influence, functional absences are considered as interruptions in the artistic imaginary at work, arising from something previously invisible or unincluded, which requires legitimisation and recognition within the project. They may have stronger or weaker effects, but there is always a process of rearrangement around the absence, and the artistic project does not proceed as it was before.

Not fully present: Five artworks by Maddie Leach