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36ème Congrès du CIHA - Lyon 2024

Parrainé par le Ministère de la Culture,
le Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche,
le Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères

Materials in the Making

Henrike Haug 1, Magdalena Bushart 2,Valérie Nègre 3
1University Of Cologne - Cologne (Germany), 2Technical University / Berlin - Berlin (Germany), 3Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris (France)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

DFG FOR Dimensions of techne in the Fine Arts – Manifestations / Systems / Narratives (Magdalena Bushart and Henrike Haug)

Only through processing will matter become material. Material narratives (and thus discussions of materiality) are therefore not only stories about their resources and exploitation, but also about the human handling and perception of materials. Both perception and application are interrelated: On one side, the supposedly inherent, supra-temporal material properties determine the processing. On the other side, the workmanship assigns certain properties to the material (and thus a different value corresponding to the cultural context).

We are no longer talking about material iconography or iconology, but rather about agencies, affordances or about semantics that ascribe the different materials to gender, region, nation, function, or time. Such codes can be based on literary traditions – religious texts, myths and legends, art theoretical treatises, historical narratives, or scientific interpretations - but can also be oriented on the model character of historical artefacts; often it is impossible to fully separate one from the other. In contrast, much less attention is paid to the actions on and in the material. Yet, as David Pye emphasised in "The nature and art of Workmanship", published in 1968, they play an essential role in defining the perception of material: The workman encounters an overwhelming number of "properties" of the material during his work operations. In this process, he has to decide which affordances of the material he wants to negate and which he wants to emphasise. This decision will depend on the period and location, the level of technical development, the status of art and craft, the dominant taste and the values associated with it. The possible applications are therefore never absolute, but always to be understood in a relational way and can be differently interpreted, reinforced, or also discarded with regard to the creative goal.

In our section, we want to focus on this interrelationship and ask how physical or chemical properties of materials, their “behaviour”, and their reaction to external influences are displayed in the artwork and how they affect the ways of use and handling. In this context, it is also important to consider the relationship between the “agency” of a material and cultural assignments, or between a “storied matter” and “stories about matter. The aim is no longer to determine the one meaning that is universal across all times or even cultures, but rather to delineate the field of possible meanings and to explore the overlaps that can result from the combination of different levels. The “material turn” thus becomes accompanied by a “production turn”, which emphasises the cultural embeddedness of the values and properties of "material".