Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


A Mystical Metamorphosis: Conceptualizing the Extraordinary in the Mundane Through Land Art Public Deposited

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  • Mystical experiences are ineffable, thus defining mysticism itself is a difficult feat. To aid in the construction of a definition of mysticism it is imperative to break down the unique elements of a mystical experience and try to give examples of where we can see all of these elements interacting. Genealogy was chosen as a methodology that could intertwine the mystical and with its highly historic roots to highlight these interactions more clearly. Still, trying to delineate mysticism through genealogy was missing something; Michel Foucault’s genealogy makes possible the exploration of the extraordinary through the mundane. The best way to explore mysticism would be to avoid highly religious or spiritual connotations and instead consider aspects of mysticism that can be identified through the secular. This thesis utilizes William James’ definition of mysticism and begins by breaking down and defining these elements of a mystical experience of being ineffable, possessing a noetic quality, having transiency, and invoking passivity. These critical points emphasize mystical elements through comprehensive secular case studies. Choosing these case studies required a close relationship with mysticism for these experiences to be identified, this is how art was chosen as a starting place. Then choosing a time period where it would be possible to examine more secular artworks, the idea of the 1960’s contemporary field of Land Art was decided upon. This paper explores sixteen different artworks divided into five separate Foucauldian genealogies encompassed by different themes of Land Art. Overall this work seeks to confirm the prominent nature of mysticism and touch on the implications of radical empathy and human compassion in our current time.
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