A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Staffordshire University, UK 

Åsa Andersson 1999

Intimations of Intimacy; Phenomenological Encounters Between Fine Art and Philosophy


"The thesis engages with the interdisciplinary relationship between the fields of Fine Art and Philosophy. The argument is based around how intimations of intimacy give themselves differently than through the use of instrumental languages and traditional visual representations of the intimate as equated with sexuality, the private and the domestic.

By mainly drawing on the later writings of Gaston Bachelard, Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas, I am investigating the 'world-building' capacities of intimacy and its inherent vulnerability. By the introduction of the German term Innigkeit which evokes a wider understanding of the term intimacy, there is a discussion of the invisible and unpredictable qualities of alterity which are experienced in the sensible and intimate encounter. Because instrumental language fails to render these ephemeral and intimating aspects there is, through different phenomenological analyses of intimacy, an exploration of an adequate language for discussing it. Through exploring how intimacy is a lived quality there is a suggestion of the need for a poetic and imaginative relationship to the world and to a language out of which intimacy might occur. Due to the delicacy of this event the ethical implications of approach and comportment are also addressed.

The encounters with intimacy are investigated through an exploration of different in-between spaces. Through setting up three 'phenomenological laboratories' I discuss experiential accounts of the immersement in glasshouses and secret gardens, spaces between skin and clothing, as well as the relation between powder and skin. Through also discussing the encounters with some carefully selected contemporary art works, my own and others, I explore how intimacy emerges in the sensorial relationship between viewer and work. I focus in particular on installations and site-related art through which I draw out a discussion of how intimacy can be compared to an elemental medium by which we are affected.

From my interdisciplinary position I trace diverse forms of expressions of intimacy by responding to these different 'sites' of enquiry. This approach leads into a reconsideration of intimacy and how it can be understood in a manner which is more enriching than the everyday understanding of the term."

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