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Title: Autobiographical narratives : an investigation into the artist as celebrity
Authors: Norval, Anet 
Issue Date: 2014
This dissertation introduces and explores the link between the phenomenon of the celebrity artist and autobiographical narratives. It investigates the possibility that artists plan, strategize and embellish or create stories that could gain enough attention from the general public to achieve celebrity status. This enquiry will establish various contexts, that of different artists, the audience, the celebrity artist and my own, locating the research and findings within a historical and contemporary discourse.
The research presents several concepts and factors that will contribute to the understanding and contextualization of the hypothesis, as well as possibly substantiate it. Concepts such as celebrity, fame, narcissism, the ego and exhibitionism form the basis of the enquiry while theories based on narrative, autobiography and memory rehearsal provide credible support and background. The nature of this dissertation requires a broad investigation including contemporary social sciences, philosophy and psychology, media studies and history of art.
In order to determine whether the aforementioned concepts and theories are employed by certain individuals to gain celebrity status, three celebrity artists are introduced through their biographies, rises to fame and their popularity and relationships with the general public. The artists, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tracey Emin are introduced chronologically. All three artists have established public identities and in the attempt to substantiate whether these identities are constructed and pre-mediated the final analysis (in form of a causal analysis) presents fluctuating results with several possible causes.
As part of this enquiry I introduce my creative output through discussing my autobiography, themes (of my work), mediums (I choose to use), exhibition and the resonance found with the selected artists. In light of the discussions based on the backgrounds, public identities and resonance I have found with each artist I determine whether I embellish my stories to gain fame.
The research is conducted through qualitative research methodologies and presented in a consequential order. The methodological approach and process is best described through the term Bricolage, which refers to the use of multiple methodologies in its approach to research, in other words, a hybrid of praxis (Barrett & Bolt ed., 2010). The process of this enquiry includes theoretical research, historical research; studio based and –led research, as well as a causal analysis.
As part of the research, many factors have been considered and discussed, as an investigation into autobiography; the research will aid me in progressing as an artist as well as contribute to the greater knowledge of the autobiographical field. Furthermore, introducing and exploring the link between autobiographical narratives and the artist, as celebrity is a discourse that can be developed and further expanded on. Through this research I have attempted to establish a link between high art and popular culture, and the artist and the audience.
The findings represent a process of attempting to understand a complex set of possible causes with one ultimate effect and the influence it has on an individual and the general population. Many artists want to be famous and would go through the motions to become a celebrity. It does, however, fully depend on the individual and no ultimate formula can be presented.
Submitted in partial fulfilment in compliance with the requirements for the Masters Degree in Technology: Fine Art and Jewelery Design, Durban University of Technology. Durban, South Africa, 2014.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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