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Clair Le Couteur

PhD Work

The Fictive Museum

At least since Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise (1935-68), artists have been making work claiming the label of 'Museum'. Marcel Broodthaers, Claes Oldenburg, Ilya Kabakov, and Michael Blum explore this form, alongside David and Diana Wilson and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. Assembling artefacts and labels in carefully authored contexts, these works fuse museum poetics with the means of literature and conceptual art, operating as 'fictive museums'. Adapting the concept of 'fictive art' from Antoinette LaFarge, the thesis develops 'the fictive' as an as-if cognitive mode, problematising distinctions between literal and figurative, and revealing meaning to be an inherently spatial matter.

This research identifies, (mis)labels, and takes part in 'the fictive museum' as a genre of contemporary art practice, accessioning it as a performative method to ask what fictive museums can do. The John Affey Museum (JAM) explores alternative modes of museum poetics to address the same questions. Using social media as performance platforms to restage research-as-practice, JAM forms a collection~assemblage of things: references; images; writing; performances; sculptures; academic publications; temporary exhibitions in gallery and performance spaces; and a long-term installation in Warrington Museum’s ethnology collection. JAM is accompanied by a museum catalogue in the form of an anthology of quotations, and by this thesis, comprising twenty short essays or (mis)labels for the fictive museum.  The thesis proposes a sculptural, diagrammatic approach to knowledge production: an 'Image of thought' (Deleuze), reimagined as 'associative constellation' in fictive space.


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Arts & Humanities Research, 2014–2019

  • Clair Le Couteur (*1982, UK) is a non-binary trans research artist and singer completing their practice-based PhD ‘The Fictive Museum’. Clair's work focuses on voice, museums and contemporary folk in the context of queer decolonisation. Recent projects include: Transportation Blues (2016), a live-looped folk song cycle at the Horse Hospital, London; Roots Between the Tides (2016), an a network installation of 144 images on long-term loan to Warrington Museum; essays for Gender Forum, Shades of Noir, and the Oxford Artistic Research platform; Reading Trans (2017-18), a series of workshops on trans theory for postgraduate Fine Art courses including Goldsmiths and Open School East; and Standing Wave (2019), a participatory performance on voice and resonance as part of the V&A Late programme. Clair’s current project is LUNATRAKTORS, a vocals and percussion performance research duo described by the Horsebridge Arts Centre as ‘spellbinding’.

  • Degrees

  • BA English Literature, University of Durham, 2004; BA Experimental Media, Prague College, 2011
  • Experience

  • Visiting Lecturer, Resonance and the Museum, Open School East, 2019; Visiting Lecturer, Contemporary Folk, Goldsmiths Music BA, 2018; Visiting Lecturer, Trans Theirstory, Open School East, 2017; Visiting Lecturer, Reading Trans, Goldsmiths Fine Art MA, 2017; Visiting Lecturer, Fictive Museums, Bristol School of Art BA, 2017; Visiting Lecturer, Fictive Museums, Prague College BA, 2016; PhD Training Session Convenor, Borders of the Fictive, Royal Holloway, 2016; Visiting Lecturer, Fictive Art, Camberwell BA, 2014; Academic English Lecturer, Charles University Prague, 2012–13
  • Exhibitions

  • This Is Broken Folk (performance), Chapel Playhouse, London, 2019; The Collection (performance), Squire & Partners, London, 2019; V&A Late: Sonic Boom (performance), V&A Museum, London, 2019; Art is something much more dangerous (performance), Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable, 2018; Oral Rinse (performance), Hive Dalston, London, 2017; Voice/Sound/Gesture (performance), Lychee One Gallery, London, 2016; Transportation Blues (solo performance installation), Horse Hospital, London, 2016
  • Publications

  • C. Le Couteur & Åsa Johannesson, 'Nonbinary Difference: Dionysus, Arianna, and the Fictive Arts of Museum Photography' in Gender, Sexuality and Museums 2nd Ed. (Routledge, forthcoming); C. Le Couteur, 'Decolonising the Label', Shades of Noir: Terms of Reference, 2018; C. Le Couteur, 'A Minor Paranoia', PROVA 4, 2018; C. Le Couteur, 'Two Slide Cases', OAR: Oxford Journal of Artistic Research, 2, 2017; C. Le Couteur, 'From this / The Tree', SYRUP, 2, 2017; C. Le Couteur, 'The Museum Optic', Site Unseen, 2017; C. Le Couteur, 'Roots Between the Tides', Beyond the Binary, 2016; P. Le Couteur & Susannah Haslam (eds), Why Would I Lie? RCA Research Biennial, 2015; P. Le Couteur, 'Fictive Museums and the Poetics of Mislabelling', Performance Research, 20.1, 2017; P. Le Couteur, 'Slipping Off the Sealskin: Gender, Species, and Fictive Kinship in Selkie Folktales', Gender Forum, 55, 2015