Programme: Art - PhD/MPhil

Start date: September 2014

Mode of study: Part time

Research title: The Artist’s Novel: The Novel as a Medium in the Visual Arts

David Maroto is a visual artist, also active as a researcher, a writer, and a curator. 

David runs a research project about the artist's novel called The Book  Lovers, in collaboration with Joanna Zielinska (head curator of the performance department in CCA Ujazdowski Castle Warsaw). Since 2011 they have been working on the creation of an artist’s novels collection and bibliography with the continuous support of M HKA (Antwerp). They explore the different ways in which the artist’s novel is not a literary artefact but a medium employed by visual artists, exactly as they employ installation, video, or performance. In the last years they have organised pop-up bookstores and public programmes (De Appel, Amsterdam; Whitechapel Gallery, London; a.o.); a symposium (Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw); a number of exhibitions (CCA Glasgow; EFA Project Space, New York; Fabra i Coats, Barcelona; Cricoteka, Krakow; a.o.); as well as a series of public conversations, discussions, and reading rooms.

David's individual projects include an extensive artistic practice at international level: 11th Havana Biennial; Artium, Museum of Contemporary Art of Vitoria (Spain); Joey Ramone Gallery (Rotterdam); S.M.A.K. (Ghent); W139 (Amsterdam); Extra City (Antwerp); EFA Project Space (New York), a.o.

David has published various articles and books, including the artist's novel The Wheel of Fortune (2014). He has also co-edited the anthology Artist Novels (Sternberg Press, 2015), the first one ever published about this topic. Recent papers include an interview with Clive Phillpot (2017, SOBRE academic art journal. University of Granada) and Words Fly, Writing Remains. (2017, Obieg art magazine, Warsaw), an article on performative literature.

Top image credit: Bartosz Górka

​David has taught courses, workshops and seminars at MFA and BFA level in various international art academies: Dutch Art Institute (The Netherlands); École Cantonale d’Art du Valais (Switzerland); University of Amsterdam; Edinburgh College of Art; Glasgow School of Art; Northumbria University (Newcastle); St. Lucas Academie (Antwerp); Willem de Kooning Academy (Rotterdam) and École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

David is a PhD candidate at Edinburgh College of Art (supervisors: Maria Fusco and Jane McKie), in partnership with the Dutch Art Institute (DAI), where he previously obtained his MFA degree. His PhD project is called The Artist’s Novel: The Novel as a Medium in the Visual Arts.

Since the mid-1990s there has been a proliferation of visual artists who create novels as part of their art projects. They do so not with the ambition to write a literary work, but in order to address artistic issues by means of novelistic devices, favouring a sort of art predicated on process and subjectivity. During the twentieth century, the main critical strands in the art world silenced, when not overtly censored, the introduction of notions such as fiction, imagination, narrative, and identification in the visual arts. Nowadays artists are picking them up eagerly, exploring the artist's novel as a means to apply these notions in their art practice at large. In this sense, it is possible to speak of a new medium in the visual arts.

What is at stake in the artist's novel? What do artists try to achieve with it? How should it be read? How should it be shown? Giving answers to these questions implies to radically reassess well-established notions in the art world, because the artist's novel is both the symptom and the vehicle for deep changes in contemporary art.

David's thesis is structured in two parts: the essay, A New Medium, is a theoretical approach to four key case studies. It examines the artist's novel's aspirations to renew an art language that has become unable to mediate the artistic experience; to establish a new bond with the spectator, not based on challenge and disruption but on narrative empathy; to strategically decelerate the artistic experience, introducing a temporality that is at odds with the institutional standard time.

Roland Barthes' (2010) notion of the fantasy of the novel is crucial to understand the artist's desire to write. In the scenario imagined by the artist, narrative language is comprehensible to non-specialised audiences, increasing in this way the accessibility to their art. The differential between such fantasy and the reality of the artist's novel in the world defines the creative process, where the contradictions and paradoxes of the art world manifest themselves, confronted with a medium of which little is known and which has not been yet assimilated by the mainstream.

The second, practice-led part of his thesis, is presented as writing as research. The Fantasy of the Novel is a narrative account of the creative process leading to the creation of a new artist's novel. With the support of The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, David has commissioned another artist to create a new artist’s novel. This situation produces the necessary conditions to observe and critically analyse the artistic and writing processes at play, from the initial artist’s fantasy of the novel (i.e. the imaginary scenario that gives form to his desire to write) to the final publication. By accompanying such process in real time, the research engages with informal aspects of the art project that are usually not visible to the public, namely intersubjective relationships and events that, although not formally measureable, decisively affect its trajectory and end result.