UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Counterv(e)il : truth, apostasy and the anxious object Brandoli, Susan M.


The original form of the word countervail is defined as to act or avail against with equal power, force, or effect, to counteract or offset, or to be of equal force in opposition. Similarly,Counterv(e)il plays with the origins of the original word, countervail, and its meaning, and also conjures associations of veiling and masking, merging these concepts under the banner of a type of surveillance, concealment and revealing. To counterv(e)il is to effect an intervention, and also a counter-action, an act of agency and equality. The significance of an image may well disturb when it is displaced from its habitual surroundings, where it becomes an “anxious object”. The written thesis and two accompanying exhibitions in installation, video, and performance – Counterv(e)il: Desire and Counterv(e)il: Conceal – explore ideas of binary oppositions: interior/exterior, private/public, nature/culture, truth/fiction, presence/absence and both the reclamation and rejection of beliefs; but they also investigate the connections that intertwine, unite, and bind these seeming oppositions by both confronting and blurring dualisms. The written thesis, Counterv(e)il, as a whole also can be seen as an exploration of connections to relevant theoretical writings and contemporary artists, establishing links of observation between issues of surveillance, desire and the gaze, abjection, subjectivity and performativity, liminalities and rhizomatic connections within the conceptual framework of the anxious object. When encountering the “anxious object,” we are confronted with a constructed and often ambiguous situation outside of our accustomed level of comfort, forcing us to devise new strategies for making sense of the world, forge new interpretations and links between object and subject. The power of objects to generate feelings of anxiety, to question our preconceptions and construct new associations, allows the exploration of new territories of desire and remembrance. These objects of desire meld into each other, lose and reform their identity, take on new meanings and relationships, to be imagined, experienced, remembered and forgotten. Through the private transformation of public spaces, sites of installation such as Counterv(e)il present us with chains of meanings, bringing into question our perceptions of what is real and what is fiction: a kind of heterotopia, a misplacement or displacement, a counter-site that represents, contests and inverts reality.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International