Tell Me About It: The Role of Confession in Contemporary Art


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art History


This dissertation investigates the role of confession in recent artistic practices, as a recurring motif and as a method for addressing questions of identity formation and institutional power. Although deeply historical, confession also saturates the western contemporary moment. Its ubiquity, however, masks the devices of power that elicit confession. Through close examination of selected works by artists in the United States and United Kingdom, this study argues that analysis of the sensory experiences offered by art contributes to understandings of confession in a significant way, distinct from other disciplines. In considering ways artists engage conventions of confession, this project argues for the potential for artworks to reimagine relationships of power and ways of expressing truths about the self.