Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Shannon Forrester

PhD Work

Embodying the Reparative Turn: Seeking Agency through Studio Practice in Individual and Collective Contexts

Embodying the Reparative Turn: Seeking Agency through Studio Practice in Individual and Collective Contexts is a practice-led thesis that researches the potential of diffracting (Barad: 2017) Sedgwick’s (2003) concept of reparative reading practice (influenced by Klein: 1925), new materialist conceptions of material aliveness, encounter, and onto-epistemology (Barad: 2003; Frost and Coole: 2010), art theory that examines art’s potential to create social agency  (hooks: 95; see also Best; 2016; as well as Mercer: 99; Laing: 2017; and Jones: 12), and identity studies (Butler: 99; see also Halberstam and Nyong’o: 2018; Geerts and van der Tuin: 2013; Barad: 2015 and Muñoz: 2009) through embodied painting as well as curatorial practices (Reilly: 2018) that incorporate a reparative turn in their pursuit to generate agency and a psychic/visceral reaching towards an exit (Foucault: 84) from damaging impacts of systemic racism, misogyny, and homophobia. Instrumental to the socio-political fabric of western culture, these systems of exclusion and oppression produce a multitude of inequities activated through circulation of identity-based currency. These inequities infect most life spheres including the psychological, emotional, ecological, educational, and economic among others. Obstructive to human flourishing by design, these anti-humane systems work to erode social and individual agency while concurrently propagating individual as well as collective trauma.

Especially since the civil rights movements in the US (March on Washington: 1963; Stonewall riot: 1969; ERA marches: 1972), fields of identity studies in North America have engaged in expansive analysis of these systems through critical paranoid-based reading approaches which are often characterised by an aim to expose the methods and aims of oppression. In Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading (2003) Sedgwick proposed that a critical reparative-based approach offers promising, productive, and undiscovered potential to create individual and social agency that produces a move toward an exit from identity-based bias by reaching for pleasure rather than avoiding shame while also assimilating the violence and trauma that permeates these systems (Sedgwick: 2003; and Best: 2016). A reparative turn offers a constructive action, a re-making-inventing of an empowered-self narrative, an undertaking of a kind of surgery on wounds inflicted by systemic oppression, producing a hopeful exit from othering’s shadows in the context of a creative imaginary engaged with the many possible new existence(s) repair might produce. Halberstam and Nyong’o (2018) would refer to the site of the repaired, or what exists after an exit, as “wildness,” Muñoz would describe it as a queer utopia: 2009, hooks: 1995 might say that the path to these places is through art. Additionally, new materialist theory offered by Barad (2007; 2015), Coole and Frost (2010), and Golding (2018) puts forth a new vision of a materially active dynamic world in infinite interactive becomings and its relationship to the socio-political realm, offering another wave through which to diffract these ideas of agency and the ambition to exit.

Through studio-based and curatorial practice-led outputs, Embodying the Reparative Turn researches what diffracting critical reparative-based theory, identity studies, new materialism, and art theory through painting and curation offers to the epistemological enterprise of creating emergent individual as well as collective agencies that produce a form of exit from dynamics of exclusion and subjection. The curatorial process engaged in a collective discourse that uncovered a diverse array of methods enfolding a reparative turn in creative practice as a means of exit from oppression and/or trauma inflicted by the dynamics of otherings dehumanizing impacts. Personal painting studio practice and poetic experiments explore the diffracting process detailed above through an embodied creative method traced in the materiality of paint and visceral imperative of a desire for repair and its hopeful futures. The painting approaches undertaken by research participant artists as well as in personal practice, explore a multitude of reparative permutations through their production of uplift, imaginative optimistic futures, expression of wounded narratives, transfer and/or realization of power, beauty, rage, recovery from trauma, reclamation and more. This thesis offers a new framework for artists and viewers that, using an embodied diffracting process to create constructive and productive exits and formation of agency, offers a release from and repair of the damage that results from subjection.

MPhil work


  • Shannon Forrester
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities

  • MPhil


    School of Arts & Humanities

  • A PhD candidate in the Royal College of Art Fine Art Research Program developing reparative turn theory in painting, Forrester is an artist working in the expanded field of painting and practice-led research who exhibits as well as presents research internationally. Forrester has a BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an MFA Painting and Graduate Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS) from Boston University. Their interdisciplinary work incorporates painting, curation, and writing at the intersection of WGS, new materialism, and cultural studies. Forrester also has worked in faculty roles in the US and UK.  Please visit

  • Degrees

  • MFA Painting, Boston University; Graduate Certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Boston University; Postgraduate Certificate in Art and Design Education (candidate); BFA Painting and Sculpture, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)
  • Exhibitions

  • Conferences

  • Publications

  • Forrester, S. “Painting from the Other Side: Tracing the reparative turn in contemporary practice” Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal special issue