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: http://aaanz.info/aaanz-home/conferences/2013-conference/inter-discipline-2013-call-for-papers/ 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: http://www.aah.org.uk/annual-conference/2014-conference 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.


  1. Following up on Deb's lead, I highly recommend tapping into Benjamin Woods for the upcoming NM discussion.

    His 2012 paper is a page-turner (I have research envy...) and check out the work in Movement Two - ALL ACTION COMES TO MATTER/NOT ALL ACTION COMES TO MATTER, not to mention the rest of his research which is dripping with ontology, and the inseparability of, as he calls them, 'meanings and matterings'.

    http://www.academia.edu/ (for future reference!)

    Benjamin's paper at:


  2. I will venture to have a squiz at that before the discussion,have had a quick look and can already see how your research envy might be justified - it looks like a thorough piece. Cheers Pat.

  3. Thanks, Patrick, for publishing the information (as discussed in a corridor somewhere) on Benjamin Woods'thesis: it seems to have hit the spot! It will be interesting to see where Benjamin's work fits into Bolt's discussion at the AAANZ in December.

  4. Plodding along behind, I read with interest, and agree, that the de-materialism of conceptual art does warrant looking at again, in that I can can think of numerous examples of conceptual artworks having very particular material needs. And, the artist themselves, speaking of this materiality as a required 'aesthetic'!

    BTW, is new-materialism colour coded?