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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

Multisensory materiality

Viveka Kjellmer1 , Érika Wicky2, Astrid von Rosen3

University Of Gothenburg - Gothenburg (Sweden), 2Bibliotheca Hertziana (Italy), 3University of Gothenburg (Sweden)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

This session aims to explore the non-visual aspects of art and materiality. How do sound, scent, taste and touch evoke new aspects of materiality in art? How can a multisensory approach open gateways to understanding and experiencing art?

We have recently seen a growing trend of immersive art exhibitions all over the globe. Immersive is the new black when it comes to art as experience, but as art historians we struggle to research the sensorial upsurge with traditional methods. New perspectives and methods can help us understand these added, or rather re-emerging, qualities of art.

The material turn explored the connection between visuality and materiality. To take it further, the sensorial turn in the humanities in general (Howes & Classen); and in art history in particular (Rose & Hendricks; von Rosen & Kjellmer) opens for updated perspectives where the non-visual senses are brought back into the analytical discussion.

We are interested in how multisensory approaches can help us take back what has been obscured during the years of focus on the visual aspects of art. The pictorial turn and the focus on visual culture helped broaden the field of art history and inspired a less hierarchical empirical outlook where not only traditional art but visual events such as digital images, garden design, fashion objects and scenography can add valuable insights. But in this process, we may have forgotten about the sensorial values of experiencing art. The traditional, but often unspoken, expertise of art historians is more than visual: what we experience in presence of the artwork potentially engages all our senses. As put by W.J.T. Mitchell (2005): “There are no visual media”; all visual experiences also evoke other sensory cues. Not only can the non- visual aspects give us valuable additional input about the aesthetic objects studied, they may also constitute artworks in their own right.

The last 20 years have seen a growing interest in multisensory art, each sense at a time, or together as multisensory Gesamtkunstwerke (Conference ‘Uncommon Senses III: The future of the senses’, Concordia university 2020). Insights in olfactory art and communication (Drobnick; Hsu), auditory art (Krogh Groth & Schultze; Matthias, Prior & Grant), gustatory art (Klein & Jordan) and tactile aspects of art as translations of visual art, but also as artworks exploring embodied reactions and sensations (Bacci & Melcher; Christidou & Pierroux), show that sensory communication has potential when it comes to understanding art, both historical and contemporary.