School of Humanities

News and events from the University of Brighton's Humanities programme areas

Graduate Show 2019: Briar Grootveldt: Philosophy, Politics, Art

My dissertation focusses on the extensive and rather timeless topic of death and the trauma that often follows alongside it.

Whether it is a mass genocide recorded in history, death penalties that are government sanctioned, death of a loved one or the death that awaits us all, brings us face to face with profound ethical, political and cultural issues. My work looks closely at the way contemporary Western artists such as Rachel Whiteread and photographer Richard Drew, negotiate the representation of death and trauma, both as personal experience, as homage to a community and in wider journalistic endeavours.

I used these two artists and their artworks to address the problematic and amorphous sentiments that comes when you characterise the work as ‘postmodernist’.  I discuss the ways in which Whiteread’s representation of death and trauma throughout her sculptures is expressive of Cathy Caruth’s postmodernist analysis of trauma. I also address the issues surrounding the image of ‘The Falling Man’ by Richard Drew and how it was culturally rendered as taboo in the time of the 9/11 attacks. Overall, the main aim of my dissertation was to combine my contempt for many of the sentiments within postmodernism and argue the ways in which it fails to successfully, respectfully and historically represent the most painful experiences within human life.

Abstract painting

How have you found your course/time at Brighton?

A month before starting my PPA course at Brighton, my incredibly loved Dad unexpectedly passed away. He was the person who took me to my interview for this course and has remained the motivation for finishing it. 

Doing this course and having been surrounded by my tutors, the endless knowledge and passion they have for their subjects and being enabled the freedom to hone in on my own interests, has quite honestly been a saving grace! Although there have been endless challenges, moments of doubt and certainly moments of “what does this all mean?”, doing this course has been absolutely vital to my self-development.

 Studying at Brighton (and particularly in the humanities department) feels like a rare and very special place to be. I cannot thank the staff enough, and I also cannot recommend drowning yourself with art and philosophy enough!

Photo of girl on loo 

 What are your plans after Graduation?

Graduation is a daunting prospect to most people! However, over the summer I intend to use my university-free time to dedicate to my paintings, my mum’s ceramic business endeavours, and I intend to do some care work with adults who have learning disabilities.

I will then (hopefully) been going on to study a MA at Brighton in Aesthetics and Cultural Theory-  Of course, all whilst continuing with my summer-time endeavours and especially, my own artistic practice!

 I then hope to apply for a Royal Drawing School scholarship, whilst maintaining a job in the field of mental health/bereavement.

 Most importantly, I hope at some point to be owning a dog.

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Briar Grootveldt

Kate Miller • May 13, 2019


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