Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Not thinking of Hendrix, but rather JD Salinger, and specifically Janet Malcolm's terrific essay on Salinger's (somewhat maligned) group of works on the truly American-weird Glass family. You'll find the essay in the New York Review of Books, 21 June 2001, available on line at:

Just an extract here, though, to show just one object that plays its material role in Salinger's stories:

The smoking in Salinger is well worth tracking. There is nothing idle or random about the cigarettes and cigars that appear in his stories, or with the characters’ dealings with them. In “Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters,” Salinger achieves a brilliant effect with the lighting of a cigar that has been held unlit by a small old deaf-mute man during the first ninety pages of the story; and in “Zooey” another cigar is instrumental in the dawning of a recognition. The cigarettes that the mother and son smoke in the bathroom play less noticeable but no less noteworthy roles in the progress of the story.
Like the food in “Franny,” the cigarettes in “Zooey” enact a kind of parallel plot. Cigarettes offer the writer (or used to offer) a great range of metaphoric possibilities. They have lives and deaths. They glow and they turn to ashes. They need attention. They create smoke. They make a mess. As we listen to Bessie Glass and Zooey talk, we follow the fortunes of their cigarettes. Some of them go out for lack of attention. Others threaten to burn the smoker’s fingers. Our sense of the mother and son’s aliveness, and of the life-and-death character of their discussion, is heightened by the perpetual presence of these inanimate yet animatable objects.

I like the alternative, 'inanimate yet animatable', as a point at which the material gains some control. But Malcolm leaves open who or what animates the cigarette or cigar: what responsibility must the human take here, and how can it be done without Malcolm falling towards anthropomorphism (which I don't think she means to do here)? (You will find the quote on p.2 of the NYRB essay).

This essay can also be found in a recent edited edition of Malcolm's writing put together by Helen Garner, Forty one false starts, published this year If you ever wanted to get inside the heads of some of the New York School artists, critics and dealers from the 1950s to the present, these essays are a great read.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Discovered while soaking newspapers to use to kill off a patch of lawn, a short review of an exhibition of work by Sarah crowEST, Tumbleweed Methodology, at Craft (Flinders Lane, Melbourne), finishing 30 November for anyone who may be in the big smoke to the north. It reads in part:

Materiality is a key motif among Sarah crowEST's latest body of work, which rambles its way throughout one of Craft's three exhibition spaces. Her paintings and various forms don't so much utilise Belgian linen as a surface on which to paint, but a material through which to play and experiment... (The Age, 9 November 2013, Life&Style 5)

A collection of 'material' reviews could now seriously impact the space in a filing cabinet. From barely a nod two years ago, the 'm word' is now the buzz word for art of any medium and across all media. Has it lost its meaning? Or does it just mean different things to different people? (I think that is where we started, sometime in May ...).

Sunday, 29 September 2013


Bron Fionnachd-Fein has brought to the Thinker's attention a video'd performance, Exit Strategy, by Kanarinka (Catherine d'Ignazio, of the 'Fluxus-inspired', Boston-based group iKatun. She suggests very plausibly that it appears to be a performance of George Brecht's 1961 score, Word Event . Exit .

You can view the performance at:

Links between this and some of the sources mentioned in the previous post should be immediately apparent -- particularly when you see the location of the performance.


The recent NewMat2 conversation threw up a number of new sources for contemplation and further discussion. It was really useful to have a general direction for the group in place and the engagement with the Enucleo exhibition, at Sawtooth ARI all September, and the wider consideration of materialising spaces (particularly galleries or exhibition sites) brought up some interesting observations on object-architectures, large and small.

Word of the day was 'entanglent': no, we didn't plan this, but it happened anyway. Ideas of webs, relationals, rhizomes all got a nod in their immediate application to material/non-material - yes - entanglements, in fact the idea of materialising practical action. But then someone had to mention hermeneutics. This was an act of innocence but - for those who were not convinced of the possibility of hermeneutics inherent fluidity - the source documents are:

Hans-Georg Gadamer, 1981, 'Hermeneutics as practical philosophy', Reason in the age of science, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA
Although Gadamer's hermeneutics was considered a 'domesticated' version of what could be perceived as the less fluid version set out by Heidegger, it is worth reading, particularly to get a bit of a screen grab against which to set the following:
Alexander R Galloway, 2012,  'What is a hermeneutic light?' in  Leper creativity: Cyclonopedia symposium, eds E Keller, N Masciandaro & E Thacker, Punctum Books, Brooklyn NY

More directly related to the spatial practices under discussion was:
Elizabeth Grosz 2005, 'The thing', Travels: feminism, nature, power, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
For those with UTAS accounts, this book is downloadable/readable as an e-book through the library. The print allowance probably just covers printing
the chapter and the notes (pp. 232-34 are the relevant ones)
One that did not come up in discussion but which comes highly recommended is:
Bernhard Siegert, 2012, 'Doors: on the materiality of the symbolic', Grey Room 47, Spring, 6-23
Again, anyone with access to e-journals through UTAS or similar institution can download a copy.
The Siegert paper brought to mind Bruno Latour's terrific consideration of the 'door-closer' which occasionally turned up on reading lists prepared by the Thinker when she was in charge of clutches of undergrads:
Bruno Latour (Jim Johnson) 1988, 'Mixing humans with non-humans: the sociology of a door-closer', Social problems 35:3, 298-310
This is available for free download at:
Recent re-reading of this Latour-de-force (sorry ... a pun waiting to happen) has confirmed it is just right for the NM investigation of the dynamics of space.

Not totally unrelated to the Bruno Latour piece (and you will need to read Latour's footnote 1 to start to get the gist of this relationship) is a TED lecture by JJ Abrams, 'The mystery box'. This may be viewed at:
Any similarities to the dynamics of  jars on hills in Tennessee are intentional.

Finally, it seems that imagining is starting to push forward as an important aspect of NM thinking, particularly if is to be a 'practical philosophy'. My initial source for thinking what imagining might be was:
Edward S Casey, 1976 Imagining: a phenomenological study, Indiana University Press, Bloomington
Written when Casey seems to have been even-more-than-usually morose, it's a bit of a slog (although worth it, providing you place the whole thing prior to the technological revolution of the 1980s and beyond).
For a little more clarity and easily searchable, have a look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry:
As usual SEP has a good list of entries pertaining to the topic - but best to look at Tamar Gendler's long entry on 'Imagination' then digress to other entries looking at Kant, Hume and various inter-cultural aspects of the topic.

It is envisaged by the Thinker that aspects of Abrams' lecture, in tandem with the Siegert/Latour papers, will provide plenty of fodder for the NewMat group's next outing - particularly if loaded with a certain amount of imagining.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

NEWMAT BIB (continuing)

Just so as you don't think the Thinker has ceased her trade since departing gainful employment, a few more things to add to the New Materialism reading list, particularly for those engaged in next Saturday's discussion -- but open to all for comment and review, of course!

Paul Rekret (2012) 'Two routes from the 'Correlate': New materialisms and politics', presented at Matter, life, resistance: an international conference in political theory, University of Kent: available for download at

James L Smith (2012) 'New Bachelards? Reveries, elements and twenty-first century materialism', Other Modernities 16 October 2012, 156-167; offers an interesting proposition regarding 'old and new materialisms' and a re-evaluation of Bachelard for the 21st century, particularly in relation to Jane Bennett. One for those interested in a contemporary poetics (and that possibility). Available for download at:

And finally, issue 2 of the new(ish) journal, Scapegoat, was on the theme of 'Materialism' and contains a number of projects and critiques arising out of architecture. Although discourse-specific (which is, in itself, of interest) the 'Editorial Note' begins with the following statement, referencing the journal Collapse, recommended to us on an earlier post from Erin Stickler but also Coole and Frost's New Materialisms (also flagged in an earlier post):

      In our estimation [architecture and landscape architecture] are haunted by materialism. We see its specular presence invoked in design research's emphasis on large-scale flows and sites of material production, in the renewed focus on 'performance' and the rehabilitation of functionalism, in the centrality of 'material' as an expressive layer of techtonics, and through the import of non-human actors into discussions about spatial design. Each of the above invokes matter as its base.

You can read and /or download the entire issue (and others) at:

Meanwhile, back in the land of Cyclonopedia ...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Materially elsewhere

Various conference calls have come through in the past few weeks, some referencing the New Materialist turn. Good to see we at Sawtooth are on to the game!

Locally, the Art Association of Australia & New Zealand (AAANZ) has a call for papers (due 1 September) which includes a session on NM convened by Barbara Bolt and alluding to some Melbourne-based practitioners' work: 'The "New Materialism"in and through Sculpture and Spatial Practice'.  The Call for Papers can be read online or downloaded as a pdf at: Bolt's session abstract reads:

In New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies (2012), Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin propose that where artworks are concerned, a ‘new materialist perspective’ engages the entanglement between the form of content (the material condition of the artwork) and the form of expression (the sensations as they come about) (Dolphijn and van der Tuin 2012: 90).  With its intimate engagement with objects, materiality and spatial and social relations, Sculpture and Spatial practice provide the exemplary conditions of possibility for examining the ethical, aesthetic, epistemological and ontological claims of the new materialism through the arts. This panel calls on rhythm’s expressive territories in Bianca Hester’s sculptural fashionings, the bothersome matter and the humorous life of Sarah Crowest’s mounds, the action improvisations of Benjamin Woods and the introverted kinetic sculptures of Laura Woodward in order to take stock of the opportunities and limits offered by a new materialist perspective.

You may remember Benjamin Woods from his Outward Project earlier this year - this will almost certainly get discussed in this session. There are other sessions proposed for this conference that also have the ring of NM about them -- sometimes contesting some of its premises (which can only be a Good Thing).

Overseas, the Association of Art Historians (AAH) in the UK has a particularly interesting session listed for their 2014 Annual Conference. Convened by Sophie Halart and Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra, the session is titled: Making Do - Materiality in the Conceptual Age:

The emergence of conceptual art in the United States and post-war Europe marked the most radical change of paradigm since Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made. Advocating the ‘dematerialization’ of the art object and a redefinition of art as a (self-) questioning language, conceptualism challenged received ideas about the production and circulation of artworks. Over recent years, a large body of research has examined the development of conceptual practices in so-called ‘peripheral’ regions, such as Eastern Europe and Latin America, and the ways in which they responded to the double imperative of resisting the cultural hegemony of the West/North and opposing authoritarian regimes. Yet the articulation of conceptualism as a critical category deserves further attention.
This panel seeks to re-examine conceptualism in the light of that which it has tended to negate: materiality. Pertaining to the artwork’s physical existence, as well as to its ability to trigger an embodied relation with the audience, a reconsideration of materiality in conceptual art raises questions about the historical conditions of artistic production and the roles of gender and space within this practice. What does materiality tell us about a conceptual piece? How are the material and conceptual intertwined? How do different media involved in conceptual art approach and treat matter? Is there such a thing as a ‘return’ of materiality in the post-conceptual age? How are these notions deployed institutionally? The panel will assess the importance of exploring the interrelations of conceptualism and materiality, and encourage comparison and dialogue between different regions and timeframes.

Also listed in the abstracts are sessions on 'Material Translations' (a theory of transnationalism and material meaning) and 'Matters of Fact', on the 'material and ontological aspects of artmaking' (which sounds suspiciously like an NM discussion to me). View the Session Abstracts at: where you can download or browse a pdf under 'Call for Papers'.

The next Sawtooth roundtable is on the agenda for discussion today: so those of you previously invited to the Thunking Table watch your emails.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Well, the daffodils are out and there will be sun coming through the Sawtooth roof and warming the front space around the Thunking Table. Time to recall where we left off in the dead of winter with the Thinker in Residence's formal departure, and pick up and plan for the run into 2014. It would be great to build up the critical interest in some new work that will soon be in the Sawtooth galleries, and to plan for the follow up New Materialism (NM) roundtable, as flagged at the winter meeting, and which would "book end" the Thinker's project for 2013.

September starts with Junction, the Launceston-wide international arts festival, which will provide a load of art and performance experiences that can be addressed through the NM frame -- or not, depending on how convinced you are of its critical worth! At Sawtooth, there will be the fabulous ENUCLEO: CONTEMPORARY CLAY exhibition, curated by Sawtooth people Serena Rosevear and Patrick Sutczak, currently at 146 Elizabeth, in Hobart. The work, from a nationally-sourced group of artists using clay to materialise their ideas, would form a wonderful basis for further critique of NM. The Sawtooth Thinker in Residence will be "in conversation" with one of the key artists, Penny Byrne, on Wednesday 18 September, so check out Enucleo and Sawtooth on FB  for details.

The Thinker suggests that the NM roundtable reconvenes while the Enucleo show is still up, and while Junction is fresh in our minds. A meeting mid-September would also provide a terrific lead-in to the October shows at Sawtooth, particularly that involving Team Textiles, with the promise of artist floor talks and possible writing opportunities that could be underscored by some of the NM issues (Hint!!!).

As before, the roundtable will be by invitation only, with discussion continuing on this blog. Invitees will be contacted individually by Sawtooth once date/time has been confirmed. Watch this space in the coming days for more New Materialist news ...

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Well, we survived the cold and the (intellectual) challenges at the round table discussion to put forward some ideas on our encounters with New Materialism. It would be great to see some of these responses make their way onto the blog really soon (hint hint). The TIR will be putting up a summary/list very shortly, so keep watching this space.

Friday, 14 June 2013


Having got distracted by Heidegger, I missed another interesting strand of 'thing theory'. This actually by the guy who coined the term, Bill Brown. A very good collection of writing on the topic can be found in a 2001 issue of Critical Inquiry, which those with the right affiliations can access in its entirety through university libraries as an e-journal. Brown subsequently edited a further collection of essays in a book: Brown, B, ed. 2004, Things, Chicago University Press, Chicago. The book has an added attraction as it includes a wonderful essay by Bruno Latour, 'Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern', which was originally published in a later issue of Critical Inquiry (30:2, 2004). The use of the word 'matter' in the title should signal that Latour has NM on his mind (and, indeed, was one of the first to mobilise the concept in relation to the visual arts as well as more -- perhaps -- everyday matters/things).

To get a picture of some of this stuff, it is worth having a look at the discussion at: (This blog looks to have had potential but appears to have been neglected of late).

To read Brown's editorial in the Critical Inquiry 'thing' issue without accessing the journal, you can download a pdf at:

Bruno Latour's article can be downloaded at:

Thursday, 13 June 2013


Having flown very small flags for a number of writings from 50BCE (Lucretius) to the present day, one final clog in the flag-waving wheel is required. Martin Heidegger. Yes, he has had a mention before, but it's worth delving into his essay, 'The thing', to see a negotiation between an object (which may be human but in Heidegger's figuring is a jug, which inevitably and in a more complicated way, is human-related) and its way of being-in-the-world:

The jug is a thing as a vessel -- it can hold something. To be sure, this container has to be made. But its being made by the potter in no way constitutes what is peculiar and proper to the jug insofar as it is qua jug. The jug is not a vessel because it was made; rather, the jug had to be made because it is this holding vessel.

The making, it is true, lets the jug come into its own. But that which in the jug's nature is its own is never brought about by its making. Now released from the making process, the self-supporting jug has to gather itself for the task of containing. In the process of its making, of course, the  jug must first show its outward appearance to the maker. But what shows itself here, the aspect (the eidos, the idea), characterises the jug solely in the respect in which the vessel stands over against the maker as something to be made.

(Heidegger, M 1975, 'The thing', in Poetry, language, thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter, Harper & Row, New York, 163-86)

A number of things are signalled here, that have come up in earlier posts: collaboration, idea/concept materialised, and so on. Compare Heidegger's jug with Wallace Stevens' jar: is a jug all outward appearance and interior potential?

And we haven't even touched the sides yet ...


Just can't stop the bibliographical urge, but sadly it seems to be taking me back into the (new) bookshelves for things I forgot I owned, or couldn't find, before the Great Shelving Week. But also some other things that create possible narrative contexts for the current New Materialism (henceforth NM --- I'm sick of typing the whole thing!)vibe:

It seems we should all be rethinking subjectivity which, of course, means resituating subjectivity in relation to the object/objectivity. Immediate deviation into "things" is therefore allowed and, it seems, is necessary to understand the non-Marxian development of all things now materialist. You could start with Lucretius, On the nature of things, written approx. 50 BCE. I am not pretending it is easy going, but do attempt some of Book 1, at least. You can view the entire shebang at:  It could be interesting to consider Lucretius's contention 'Substance is eternal alongside the NM idea of 'vibrant matter'. All of a sudden an odd temporality seems to emerge. And then he gives us the idea that things are not necessarily what might be seen:

And now, since I have taught that things cannot
Be born from nothing, nor the same, when born,
To nothing be recalled, doubt not my words,
Because our eyes no primal germs perceive;
For mark those bodies which, though known to be
In this our world, are yet invisible:
Lucretius goes on to illustrate the effects of, for example, wind on the shape and action of bodies, trees, and other 'visible' things. Yet wind itself is not visible. Again, an appeal to the NM idea that anything that can be conceptualised is matter/material.
Maybe more on that tomorrow.

Something of the same effect is that achieved in the old Wallace Stevens chestnut, Anecdote of the jar (1919):

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround the hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare,
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

I must sadly report that the short Google entry on the Anecdote of the jar is rather good on what it may (or may not) mean. Do not bother pursuing Stevens' other poetry unless a devotee of American romantics: it is decidedly disappointing (although he did write a very odd piece called, Someone puts a pineapple together, a topic which some may recognise as having a certain resonance for the TIR).

Also on 'things' there are currents of discourse through both anthropology and what is usually called 'material culture studies'. The former is endless, so perhaps flag something like Clifford's The predicament of culture and even, in a perverse way, Venturi and Scott Brown's Learning from Las Vegas. It doesn't have to be written by anthropologists!  Material culture studies has already been recognised as having an aesthetic side in an earlier post on Mick Carter's work. But it's hard to go past Steven Lubar and W David Kingery, eds (1993) History from things: essays on material culture, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. In particular, check out the essay by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 'Why we need things'. Something about the arrangment of the world as seen in this essay, foreshadows the model of collaboration set out by Paul Carter in Material thinking, where he talks about his 1990s work with Charles Anderson, dis /appearance: waiting room. Carter also calls up classical (read, Platonist) sources for an understanding of 'non-forms', things that we know to be there but cannot see:

In materialising the laughable offspring of dust, it was pleasurable to prove that things as we see them right here generate expectations of things elsewhere and out of sight, and that, in turn, when visitors migrated to the other gallery where the non-forms were displayed, those other things were inventions re-membering what had already happened. (2004, 58)

Probably worth noting that it does not seem necessary to have seen the exhibition or even to understand its layout to get the gist of the conceptual materiality at work; and also that Carter uses 're-membering' deliberately, playing on the different etymological roots of dis-member (pulling limb-from-limb) and remember, which deals with memory. Thus re-member, is closer to re-assemble, but of something so closely known as to be one's own body -- perhaps.

Off to do a bikkie bake; maybe get to Heidegger later!

Monday, 10 June 2013


Just a couple of new things to add to the New Materialism pile:

Firstly, Timothy Morton's blog is worth a visit. An English eccentric let loose in the USA so don't get distracted. Look at his past papers and talks. Morton wrote the absolutely engrossing Ecology without nature and provides great examples of how to discuss an inclusive nature rather than anthropomorphising to bring "nature" into a "human" fold. Check out at

On that New Materialism -- non-humanisation thing, there is a good interview with Jussi Parikka by Michael Dieter (Blowup - Speculative Realities) that opens up more on New Materialism from one of its "founders" and champions (what is it about Finland and New Materialism?):

Happy reading!

Saturday, 8 June 2013


The Thinker is Residence has resumed business after an enforced lay-off related to dealings with a Major Carrier of communication data. Summaries of even more New Materialist thought should be on the way shortly. In the meantime, invited participants in the upcoming New Materialism discussion at Sawtooth can get the discussion started right here ...!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Invitees to the New Materialsim small group discussion can contribute thoughts and questions here both before or after the event.

Please also consider responding to the earlier posts on the topic too.

Friday, 24 May 2013


In 2000, Michael Carter gave a seminar organised by IMA and UQ, Brisbane, on what he calls "imaginary materials". This seminar, with its contributions from academics such as Rex Butler and John Macarthur, was a response to Carter's earlier book, Putting a face on things: studies in imaginary materials (Power Publications, Sydney, 1997). The seminar was also published: Imaginary materials: a seminar with Michael Carter, ed. John Macarthur, 2000, IMA Publishing, Brisbane.
(Both publications -- in particular the seminar -- are now rather difficult to find).

Both publications address ideas about things, material, matter, that impact on the emergence of New Materialism. In the seminar, Mick discusses in some detail Terry Eagleton's 1990 work, The ideology of the aesthetic (Blackwell, Oxford -- and, yes, there has to be ideology if it's Eagleton!), so now follows a rather long quote, from Carter (p.16):

     "One of the themes that surfaces throughout Eagleton's thesis is the observation that aesthetics, as it has been construed within the tradition of Western philosophy, is drawn towards, and fascinated by, the ambiguity (even confusion) which surrounds human artefacts, and in particular the manner in which they complicate the line separating the animate from the inanimate. Eagleton refers to this ambiguity as 'a peculiar positionality', a positionality in which the work of art, as the paradigmatic instance of the artefact, is though of as ' a kind of subject'. What he seems to mean by this is that the work of art (and by implications made objects in general), by nature of their 'peculiar positionality', are regarded as manifesting certain of the properties normally associated with the ethical person.
   The morally virtuous individual lives within the grace and symmetry of an artefact. (Eagleton, 1990, p.34)
   "What is intriguing here is that he appears not to notice that, in this statement, the directionality of the metaphor is not quite as he might have intended and appears to be moving in a direction opposite to that which his argument requires. In fact, in the above quotation it is the human subject who is being figured in tems of the beautiful object and not vice versa. This meant that [for Carter}, it was impossible to make an alternative reading of that phrase 'peculiar positionality'. That is, as well as imbuing, or appearing to imbue, the artefact with elements of consciousness (the subject), consciousness may also be configured as if it were possessed of the grace, charm and order of the object. Do not those three terms, grace, charm and order apply with just as much legitimacy to the world of made objects as they do to the psychological dispositions of the subject? In the ocntext of the present argument what is more important to note is the way in which the author recognises that, within the very materiality of worked objects, it is their aspiration to a form of ideality that marks them off from their surrounds.
   Within the dense welter of our material life ...  certain objects stand out in a sort of perfection dimly akin to reason, and these are known as beautiful. A kind of ideality seems to inform their sensuous existence from within. (Eagleton 1990, p.17)
   "Again Eagleton uses a human category, that faculty of the subject called reason, to provide both an orginary point for, and standard of comparison between, the objects of our material life. The exceptional ones, the beautiful ones, are thosewhich appear to approach our condition and which appear to manifest our characteristics. Thus it is that Eagleton's text locates the origins of the aesthetic within the sentient, perceiving corporeal subject and not as a particular way of organising the material world and its appearance".

Carter goes on to locate links between the aesthetic and the imaginary, by way of the device of Eagleton's 'peculiar positionality'. It boils down -- in extremely simple terms-- to a transformation of nature (rather than the 'improvement' so beloved by Kantians and even neo-Kantians) 'into a condition where it becomes something in which it is possible to see ourselves'. (Carter 2000, p.21). This is Carter's 'imaginary alignment', a 'realistic illusion whose humility os preferable to the illusion of realism'. 

How close this is removed from a Kantian/humanist position could be debated. Is a re-positioning enough to call up the idea of a New Materialist ecology? Does Eagleton have a stake in maintaining the position of the work of art, the idea of beauty, and the stratification of society inherent in both these thing? How 'material' is the 'artefact' for Eagleton and Carter? Is Carter putting up an important consideration in naming the imaginary as an element that might need to be brought very strongly into play in evoking vibrant matter?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


OK, OK ... you don't want to spend a bomb on books about stuff that will be out of fashion before sundown, or that don't have an index, etc etc. Here is the best freebie around on new materialism: Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin's New materialism: interviews and cartographies (2012), available through Open Humanities Press/ MPublishing, Ann Arbor.  The nitty gritty for arts practitioners (and thinkers) is on p.91, where discussion commences, 'In terms of artworks ...'. Surely a core statement for further exploration...

Friday, 26 April 2013


The first "Saturday Think" at Sawtooth. Will there be a discernable difference between weekday "thinks" and and weekend "thinks"?

More on the theme of New Materialism - two sources that illustrate (sometimes inadvertently) the fluid, even uncontained, nature of the whole thing.

- Barrett, Estelle and Barbara Bolt (eds) 2013 Carnal knowledge: towards a 'New Materialism' through the arts, IB Tauris, London & New York: A recently-published collection of essays (not all of which see the New Materialism in a positive light) coming out of an Australian/Finnish conversation - worth reading the 'Introduction' to get a picture of the field. Extremely irritating that the book has no index - but a lot of blank pages where it might have been. (This does mean you have to read the whole thing to find the bits you want!)
- Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost (eds) 2010 New materialisms: ontology, agency and politics, Duke University Press, Durham & London: Do note that the title uses 'materialisms', plural - this should be an indicator that all is not cut and dried in the New Materialism world. Inclusion of essays by Elizabeth Grosz, Rosi Braidotti and Rey Chow give some idea of the critical star power - and the directions - of this collection.

Other publications hint at the pervasive interest in materiality (perhaps rather than materialism) in art making that simply needed to be identified or to be articulated as attracting an equal measure of concern as the maker and their subject. Most notable, and with an Australian context, would be Paul Carter's Material thinking. Although not directly addressing New Materialism, Carter's materials are clearly thought of in an active relationship to makers, and are partners in the animating process of artmaking. Thankfully these materials escape the fall into anthropomorphising that seems to occur when makers are held in thrall of materials and hapticity.  A rather different flagging of New Materialism came about in the programming of the Seventh Australian Print Symposium (Canberra, 2010) with its theme of 'Materiality' and its range of topics: Concreteness, Corporeality, Reality, Palpability, Perceptible, Physicality, and Experience - which can be found, although sometimes differently approached, in the collections, above. The convenor, Roger Butler, aimed at a revisiting of the print as a vehicle for social commentary, referring to Materialism's beginnings in Marxism (and that ism's rather more specific take on an economically inscribed Materialism).

One recurring aspect of New Materialism, perhaps a key to how it might be understood, is the calling up of the notion of "Vitalism". I get the idea that Man Ray might have liked it ... but understanding it as a modernist practice rather than the more relational, even ecological take emerging from New Materialism would be very much open to discussion. Worth reading Jane Bennett's chapter in Coole and Frost (above) to get something of the background.

More New Materialism later ... and watch for the New Materialism session at Sawtooth later in the year!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


In June we are aiming to have a round table, lounge on the floor, prop on a seat Saturday arvo discussion on the increasingly pervasive theme of 'NEW MATERIALISM'. It's been around for a while now, for writers, but increasingly for the vis arts and also performance. Check out Jussi Parikka for one take on the topic.

Watch this space for more New Materialism docs and ideas, and updates on the event, which is sure to include artists exhibiting in the Sawtooth program this year.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Expressions of Interest - Thinkers and Writers wanted

Click on the link below to download the Expressions of Interest Form
and get involved with our Thinker-in-residence program.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

@SawtoothARI launch

The @SawtoothARI program is a new initiative by Sawtooth ARI that aims to establish a stronger platform for critical engagement and writing to come from and to the state’s regions.

With project-based assistance from Tasmanian Regional Arts and banking on Sawtooth’s already established exhibition program - @SawtoothARI will introduce a think-tank/pop-up model into our new members’ artshub.

Sawtooth ARI will host ‘thinkers-in-residence’, pop-up forums/exhibitions/markets/film nights and offer an overall site for  the engagement, discussion of and writing about cultural material being produced in Tasmania.

Our current Thinker-in-residence is calling for expressions of interest for Critical writing projects to take place @SawtoothARI.

To get involved email with your name, email, phone number and a brief description of a topic you would like to address.
  • calls for information on regional artists/galleries/exhibition spaces/ exhibitions/ARIs 
  • artists/makers/curators/ media who want to make connections across the region and between ARIs.
  • A "Since then ..." response sheet. Artists who have already shown at Sawtooth could fill in a 'Where has your work been seen recently?' 
  • New Materialism panel
  • Events using text/word/voice responses to video/film/projection

Sunday, 31 March 2013


Sawtooth ARI Thinker-in-Residence, Dr Deb Malor, will be hanging around Sawtooth every Thursday afternoon for the next little while. She might be thinking ... or not. Maybe talking about thinking - your thinking, her thinking. That's the THURSDAY THUNK.

Q: could thunk be the the plural of think?

Watch this space over the next week or so, for Thinking Events at Sawtooth ARI.