PhD thesis now available online via the University of Melbourne repository.

Undertaken at the Centre for Ideas, Faculty of the Victoria  College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.


Agency and affect: curating political change is a practice-led research project that considers the relationship of art to political change, and the critical possibilities for agency in this relationship. To establish this, I develop and elucidate a theoretical framework for understanding art’s operation in the social and political sphere, and relationship to the individual audience member. By foregrounding first an understanding of how an artwork operates within a relational sphere of individual subjectivity, I elaborate a new position arguing that the artwork and its affective potential can generate individual insight into the limits that bound behaviour and thought and, through this, enable a sense of agency in contributing to change through challenges to those limitations.

I develop this framework through the process of conceiving, developing and staging a series of curatorial projects, employing the practice of critically-engaged curating as a research methodology, using a mode of curating situated within the discipline’s contemporary discourse. The ideas of social agency, and engagement of a political nature, are intrinsic in the content, form and presentation context of each curatorial project. Interspersed between, various ideas are tested against these curatorial projects over the course of the research, and the results form the ground for the subsequent projects. This process of testing and evaluation of concepts against actual artistic projects and their strategies, feeds into the development of a robust theoretical framework for considering art and agency. The research paper concludes with an argument for how this framework offers a recalibration of the nexus between art, the political and everyday life and, in light of this, the ways in which an artwork might be measured and understood.

The creative work is the curatorial development and realisation of the three projects: Civil Twilight End, 2011, a permanent public artwork situated in Melbourne’s Docklands; [en]counters, 2013, a program of temporary performances and installations staged in the public sphere of Mumbai; and David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me, 2014, a retrospective exhibition presented at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.


art theory; curatorial practice; art criticism; aesthetics; art and politics; affect