Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Sculpture + Extended Media

First Advisor

Michael Jones McKean




By John Orth, BFA

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the

degree of Master of Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Virginia Commonwealth University, 2017.

Major Director: Michael Jones McKean, Associate Professor,

Sculpture + Extended Media

My MFA thesis project is a ten-minute video installation entitled Emporium, in which I adorn, strap, tie, hang, and wrap the bodies of performers with my sculptures, and then let loose these hybridized bodies in the non-linear dream-time of cinema. Riffing on the fantastical taxonomy of Jorge Luis Borges’s The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, I attempt, as Borges proposes, to penetrate the “divine pattern of the universe” by creating patterns of my own. These patterns required a choreography of process that was new to me, leading me to film in truck stops, to grow water lilies in my studio, to wade into the James River at night, and to build sculptures to be dragged behind my truck at great speeds. By interpreting this classificatory system in video and now through writing, I seek to demonstrate the inherent tendency for this system (and in turn, all such systems of division and signification) to collapse under the weight of their own contradictions. In my invented world, delineations collapse, ooze, seep, vibrate, take root, entwine and decay in defiance of a world that, as of late, seems to encourage excessive polarization and unyielding boundaries.

In the following pages, I reinterpret eight of Borges’s categories of classification that I addressed in my thesis videowork. This writing is not ancillary to the video work, but rather it is a new iteration of the project. I apply the same methodology in which I developed the video—addressing these categories metaphorically and poetically rather than literally— to be true to Borges’s intentions and to stay true to my thesis’s aim to always serve as a further point of departure.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission