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Star Gazing. Strategies of Self-Presentation on the Example of Alfred Hitchcock and Gilbert & George

Nadine Seligmann
Research Grantee University of Art and Design Linz | Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2016/17


This PhD thesis explores performative practices of self-exposure based on two complex star phenomena. Supported by an extensive PR apparatus, director Alfred Hitchcock was promoted as a solo protagonist through different platforms and formats. Besides the cameos in his films and TV appearances in ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1955-1962) and THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR (1962-1965), publicity campaigns and his strong presence in the media not only contributed to the myth surrounding him, but also to the celebration of the Hitchcock brand.

Likewise, artists Gilbert & George, who gained recognition in the arts world by declaring themselves as “living sculptures” in the late 1960s, have created a unique brand identity during their long career of more than 40 years. They have carefully cultivated their image through multiple channels: performances and other public appearances, large-sized series of pictures, film and videos. The couple’s contextualization in the East End of London and their relatedness to the lower class, as associated with this specific environment, has become as much a part of their star personality as their distinct style. Both Hitchcock and Gilbert & George represent consistent and stereotypical images, which have been performatively produced by principles of repetition.

Stars are constructed; they function as projection screens and emerge through various discourses. Based on detailed analysis, the PhD thesis examines how the star personas of Hitchcock and Gilbert & George are consolidated and multiplied across different media. Star studies, notions of paratextuality and concepts of performance/performativity form the theoretical background for this interdisciplinary topic. The research project greatly benefits from the combination of these three research fields, which – even taken individually – have not been explored extensively.


Nadine Seligmann has worked in the film and arts sector for more than a decade, including jobs in art gallery management, exhibitions, art consulting, and film funding.