Doctoral Project Artistic Research

Confusion: As Resistance, As Embodiment, and Towards Relationality

Joe O’Brien

Confusion: As Resistance, As Embodiment, and Towards Relationality

Confusion: As Resistance, As Embodiment, and Towards Relationality explores the potential of confusion as a strategy of resistance. While confusion is often understood as the limits of comprehension, this project develops an understanding of the political and affective dimensions of confusion.

As a result of increasing global shifts and political uncertainty, public institutions deploy strategies for “future-proofing” that demand efficient, readable subjects. However, prioritising readability and efficiency can flatten the complexities of labour and subjectivity, producing extractive or exploitative institutional-individual relationships. Against this paradigm, this project considers how confusion can become a strategy of resistance, countering demands for easily readable subjects with an insistence on the relational and complex. Confusion comes as a double bind – along with its potential as a form of resistance it carries a sense of disorientation as well. With this in mind, this project will also explore how we might collaboratively navigate the embodied state of disorientation that accompanies confusion, prioritising relationality over efficiency.

This approach to confusion, as a double-bound concept of liberatory potential and affective disorientation, is informed by queer- and crip-epistemologies. Additionally, Confusion draws on the work of scholars and researchers who have thought through the resistant potential of other forms of not-being-read in an institutional-individual context. Édouard Glissant’s right to opacity, Jack Halberstam’s willful failure, and Tina Campt’s refusal have all been especially informative.

In exploring the resistant potential and disorienting affect of confusion, this project uses a three-part research trajectory that includes photographic and text-based work exploring illegibility; socially engaged events that experiment with radical forms of relationality; and transdisciplinary engagements that build relationships between varied fields of practice and research.