Heterotopic Frictions
: Visually Problematising Identity, Territory and Language from an Anglo-Welsh Perspective

  • Paul Jones

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This PhD is a response to how little evidence there is of visual artists from an Anglo-Welsh background making works that interrogate the complexity of their identity compared to those who define themselves as Welsh-speaking, many of whom passionately celebrate and defend their sense of Welshness. I question my perceptions of identity, territory and language, playing with conflicting readings of culturally driven constructs of Welshness, Britishness and hyphenated identity. To explore this question, I developed an artistic inquiry that utilises flags, geographical borders and language as artistic mediums. These geographical markers are used in low-key interventions that oscillate between pathos and humour and are a way to visualise my internal struggles when trying to define identity, especially in an epoch where issues of belonging are increasingly polarised. This artistic inquiry approach was chosen due to my background as an artist and the belief that artistic practice is knowledge producing. The first three chapters include a theoretical reading of flags, borders and language, and an investigation into relevant art practitioners. Each chapter is followed by a write-up of the connected artistic inquiry. In the concluding chapter, exhibition as method is evaluated through a discussion of Frontier Territory, held at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and its related symposium ‘Antagonistics: Identity, Nationhood and Territory’. The research highlighted a need for a methodology to explore the relationship between identity, territory and language as sites of conflict where a sense of cultural orientation is constantly being challenged, defended and re-defined. The term ‘heterotopic friction’ emerged from a reading of Chantal Mouffe (2013) and Michel Foucault (1986). In this thesis, I argue that, as a methodology, heterotopic friction allows for a subjective opening up of a plurality of spaces between identity, territory and language, exposing tensions as the imagined meets the actual
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorAnwen Jones (Supervisor) & David Ian Rabey (Supervisor)


  • visual arts
  • Welsh identity
  • practice based research
  • border
  • antagonism
  • critical art practice

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