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GERAGHTY, I. The Reconfigured Frame: Various Forms & Functions of the Physical Frame in Contemporary Art, 2009

This PhD thesis is a critical analysis and reconfiguration of the physical frame in contemporary art. Drawing on historical, theoretical and technical knowledge bases, the thesis characterises the physical frame as the material manifestation of an act (or set of acts) of framing: a constructed ‘surplus’ or necessary appendage created to mediate and protect an artwork, connecting it to physical and conceptual contexts in order to facilitate a better understanding of the framed work. The frame is thus depicted as ‘work-sensitive’, being formed in response to, and as a direct result of, the work of art. This distinguishes the frame from notions of ‘site’ and ‘place’, which both connote preexisting spaces. The physical frame, rather than describing the setting or site to which an artwork is added or contributes to, describes the material build-up which is added to the work.
The thesis documents and examines the various ways that contemporary artists employ physical frames to negotiate physical and conceptual space for artworks. This framing perspective is contrary to the prevalent mindset that contemporary artworks – having broken out beyond the picture frame into real space and time - are now frameless. As a result of this research, the physical frame is reconfigured as an open-ended cellular construct, offering up multiple narrative threads.
A distinction is made in the thesis between an ‘immediate’ frame (a frame immediately attached to an artwork which the viewer stands on the ‘outside’ of, such as a picture frame) and an ‘extended’ frame (an immersive kind of frame experienced by the viewer from ‘within’ the frame, as with a ‘circumtextual’ frame). In addition to clarifying and developing upon existing framing terminology, this thesis presents a new taxonomic scale of frames in order to test the hypothesis that ‘immediate’ frames can be discussed and categorised according to their level of involvement with their associated artworks. This framing model offers a new filter through which to approach the contemporary artwork, and provides a method, vocabulary and set of questions to dissect and articulate the presence and relevance of a detected frame.
Follow the link below to access an extract of the thesis. It includes a list of categories, definitions and examples that relate to artist-controlled physical frames (particularly picture frames, plinths, and vitrines) at the point of exhibition.