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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

Material topologies. Anthropological and cultural approaches for a sensible dimension of artistic materials

Gabriela Siracusano 1, Marta Maier 2, Noémie Étienne 3
Universidad Nacional De Tres De Febrero - Buenos Aires (Argentina), 2Universidad De Buenos Aires - Buenos Aires (Argentina), 3University Of Vienna - Vienna (Austria)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Organic and inorganic. Synthetic and natural. Pigments, dyes and binders. Traditional and extra-artistic. Raw or ultra processed. Precious and coarse. The taxonomies that order the materiality of art according to its physical condition or its most common uses help us understand the scope and significance that these materials have had for the men and women who manipulated them in different times and geographical horizons. However, those same classifications can produce semantic walls that bend and intersect and lead us along paths whose beginning and end seem confusing. In an attempt to expand these material universes, this session proposes to discuss the existence of another set defined by that particular quality that many materials used by artists have to empathize sensibly with the affections and beliefs of those who apply or consume them and, therefore, to transcend the mere dimension of matter to charge themselves with power and agency. The socio-economic hierarchy that materials such as lapis lazuli or kermes granted to their consumers, the participation of fluids and body parts such as blood, gall, hair and teeth, or urine both for the promotion of faith and for social denunciation, the selection of metals such as gold and silver and precious stones as materials imbued with sacred and political power, or the materials that embody devotional and miraculous images actively contributing to their sacredness, exemplify these arguments. Their differences and dissimilarities – which could place them in opposite sets such as those mentioned above – are diluted and disappear in the face of that other quality: that of transforming itself into a material presence that exceeds its own aesthetic capacities to take the place of symbols and charge with an energy capable of provoking actions and reactions in the public. This homologation not because of its magnitude or its physical dimension but because of its relative position with respect to the hieratic, invites us to think of them under the idea of material topologies, inspired by the concept coined by Henri Poincaré in the late nineteenth century in his Analysis Situs, when offering the possibility of thinking about new aspects of geometry. In times when the Material Turn has favored the introduction of the language of the chemical, physical, biological and conservation sciences, in the discourses of art history (and vice versa), this session proposes to reflect on the results of these interdisciplinary investigations through an anthropological and cultural key, as it has been shown in recent publications. A deep debate on this topic is relevant and necessary not only for historical considerations but also for conservation decisions.