Courtney Richardson Dissertation Defense

Courtney Richardson

PhD candidate Courtney Richardson will defend her dissertation, "Art as Information: Re-reading Quicksand."

Art as Information: Re-reading Quicksand is a micro-study of an African American cultural narrative through artmaking.

Abstract: “Art as Information: Re-reading Quicksand” is a micro-study of an African American cultural narrative through artmaking. My subject is the autobiographical and fictional novel, Quicksand by Nella Larsen (1928). Larsen’s life and creative storytelling provide paths for how we may attend to cultural heritage knowledge gaps about African American womanhood by engaging with the works (or informing processes) of art. This especially highlights works concerning self-definition and self-determination while navigating life within a racialized, classed, and gendered body. I intend to re-present Quicksand as an autobiographical artifact and living artwork to invite ongoing inquiry and knowledge production on Black womanhood in intimate and shared spaces. I approach this research by making artworks that reiterate and interpret knowledges that emerge from reading Larsen’s narrative. I also document processes and analysis of my annotations and artmaking that emerges—providing an intimate view of how Art as Information (AAI) is engaged to research an artifact for critical and iterative/cyclical exploration.

This dissertation reintroduces AAI as a subfield of Information Sciences that engages artmaking as an information technology. It involves the study of arts’ roles within knowledge production: how we craft, document, process, and circulate information through making art. For my research, I intertwine AAI with cultural- attentive lenses, such as Black Feminist Material Culture (BFMC) and Culturally Situated Reader Response Theory (C/RRT), to examine how we may attend to cultural knowledges that are historically silenced and disfigured—exploring the liberatory aspects of artmaking to intercept and dismantle exploitative depictions (i.e., visual violences) historically committed against marginalized groups under the guise of neutral documentation and curiosity. I also lean on scholarship from Art Education (e.g., research creation) to explore how AAI engages with auto/biographical knowledge production to navigate tensions between fiction and reality in documenting someone’s life as self-definition or embodiment emerges, evolves, and fluctuates over time. Lastly, my ever-present question while conducting this research interrogates how artmaking may also attend to the psychological impact involved with processing such narratives on Black womanhood that involve traumatic experiences.

Her committee includes Associate Professor Kathryn La Barre (chair and director of research), Professor Emerita Linda C. Smith, Assistant Professor Blair Ebony Smith, and Professor Safiya U. Noble (University of California, Los Angeles).

For any questions, please contact Courtney Richardson.