Author Identifier

Laura Mitchell

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Lyndall Adams

Second Supervisor

Paul Uhlmann


The aim of this research project was to synthesise diverse theories addressing consumerism to expand on practice-led research in the visual arts as a vehicle for critiquing consumerism. Within this aim, mashup was developed as a practice-led research method. Another intent was to contribute to the scarcity of research in contemporary arts (both theoretical and practical) involving the notion of mashup methods as applied to expanded painting.

There is a lack of meaning in contemporary life, in our global financial crisis and COVID-19 digital age. Consumerism fills the void created by this lack of meaning by becoming an incessant, unfulfilled desire. Philosopher Zygmunt Bauman’s term “liquid life” provided a starting point to research the sociological implications of this contemporary human condition: the search for meaning through consumption and subsequent unfulfilled desire. Hal Foster’s discourse provided a historical and critical art perspective. This research also drew on consumer culture theorists’ analysis of retro-branding: the term “retroscapes” is used to refer to artwork source material that addresses 21st-century consumer landscapes. In terms of consumer culture, the 1950s–1960s pop art movement is analysed, particularly how it has affected and influenced contemporary art. The research was informed by the practices of key artists, ranging from artists associated with the pop art movement, 1980s artists and contemporary artists Julia Wachtel and Corinne Wasmuht.

This project is the culmination of a series of exhibitions that explored how practice-led research using mashup methods and retroscape imagery can be used to critique hyper-consumerism. Using hybrid painting practices and juxtaposing and integrating street-based and studio-based methods with contemporary and traditional paint and electronic media, this research project offers possibilities for critiquing a society where capitalism rapidly reinvents itself. Further, this project investigated how theoretical perspectives on liquid modernity and consumerism can inform a contemporary arts practice. Imagery from my United States Appalachian dirt farmer/miner heritage provided a visual metaphor and coherent personal narrative to illuminate the transformation from being a valued modern producer to losing status and vocation as society evolved into a liquid modern society of consumers. This research connects painting in the current austerity climate to the evolution of mashup in 21st-century visual arts. Practice-led research methodology was used as a catalyst for studio research. Mashup methods were applied to the mediums of painting and expanded media to create an embodied approach to comprehend and critique consumerism.