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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

Virtual/Material: What Matters for Art History?

Elizabeth Mansfield 1, Emily Pugh 2, Hélène Dubois 3

Penn State University - University Park, Pa (United States), 2Getty Research Institute - Los Angeles, Ca (United States), 3Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage - Brussels (Belgium)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

This session aims to promote conversation and collaboration between art historians working in Technical Art History and Digital Art History by focusing on questions related to the dematerialization and rematerialization of artworks as well as art historical information.

The need to bring Technical Art History and Digital Art History into closer conversation is prompted by the widespread assumption that these are not just separate but antithetical endeavors. This perception is understandable. After all, Technical Art History, along with related fields such as materiality studies, valorizes material specificity, labor, and workshop practices while Digital Art History accepts that artworks and artists alike are also forms of data that may or may not take tangible form. Each of these approaches is represented by its own specialist journals, its own scholarly conferences, its own growing graduate programs and curricula. Yet, these distinct practices share fundamental methodological concerns and an intertwined historiography. For instance, both ground their methods in empiricism and, to varying degrees, expect their research outcomes to be reproducible. In this way, both may be seen as reactions against the so-called “Theoretical Turn,” which provided methodological grounds for strongly subjective interpretations of works of art with little or no expectation of reproducibility.

From these shared methodological premises and common historiographic impulses emerge similar concerns. Both Technical Art History and Digital Art History demand of researchers that they continually revisit the fundamental terms of the discipline. Whether approaching works of art as data or as the actualization of specific materials and processes, Digital Art History and Technical Art History expose the discipline’s ongoing need to negotiate the objects of its study. Both Technical Art History and Digital Art History ask scholars of visual culture to decide how—even whether—to distinguish the real from the ersatz, the complete from the partial. As a result, questions related to materiality become particularly relevant: how are objects represented as data? How are attributes like color, texture, or composition analyzed and represented using digital technologies? What are the consequences of artworks’ dematerializations and rematerializations via digital technologies? And what of the materiality of data itself? As the management of data, on laptops, cameras, and servers, becomes an increasing central aspect of contemporary research for repositories as well as individual scholars, what implications might this have for research and scholarship? Such questions are particularly relevant given scholars’ increasing reliance on remote access and digitized sources, the trend towards digital publication formats, and the growing diversity with regard to the types (and formats) of sources art historians consult, particularly as scholars seek to write more global and inclusive histories of art.