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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

When Theory Becomes Practice – New Materialism, Object-Oriented Ontology and Perspectivism in Contemporary Art

Rahma Khazam 1 , Eduardo Jorge de Oliveira 2

Institut Acte, Sorbonne Paris 1 - Paris (France), 2Universität Zürich (Switzerland)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of new approaches to matter and materiality in contemporary art. The materials constituting the artwork, its realization and its conservation have become all-important – to the point where it is often forgotten that the material turn, as it is called, has philosophical and theoretical underpinnings that are reshaping and transforming the practices of a growing number of artists. Taking their cue from philosophical movements such as new materialism and object-oriented ontology (OOO), and scholars such as Karen Barad, Jane Bennett, Graham Harman, Tim Ingold, Timothy Morton and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, these artists are investigating the agency of matter and objects, their liveliness, their relation to other objects or materials, and their ability to decentre the human.

Even though these artistic forays into philosophy and anthropology have thus far attracted less attention than issues relating to material culture as such, they have nonetheless been taken up by a number of publications and exhibitions. Publications that explore the philosophical underpinnings of matter and objects and their impact on art include Realism Materialism Art (eds. Cox, Jaskey, Malik, Sternberg Press 2015) and Power of Material/Politics of Materiality (eds. Witzgall, Stakemeier, The University of Chicago Press 2018) , while Art + Objects (Graham Harman, Polity Press 2020) and The Power of Wonder: New Materialisms in Contemporary Art (ed. Heinzelmann, DCV 2022) are more recent investigations of some of these developments. Whereas exhibitions such as Magiciens de la Terre (Centre Pompidou/Grande Halle de la Villette 1989) opened up new non-Western perspectives for art, dOCUMENTA (13) (Kassel 2012), Symbionts: Contemporary Artists and the Biosphere (MIT List Visual Arts Center 2022-23) and We are all Lichens (Musée d'art contemporain de Rochechouart 2022) have featured artists who specifically engage with notions such as materiality, objecthood and non-human agency in their work, such as Pierre Huyghe, Candice Lin, Michael E. Smith, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Jenna Sutela, or Annicka Yi.

However a more systematic approach is required if we are to account for the impact of the new philosophical and anthropological approaches on art-making. This session will endeavour to lay the foundations for such an account by asking the following questions, among others: how do artists and exhibition curators apply theories such as perspectivism, new materialism and object-oriented ontology to art and are there commonalities between their approaches? Can one construct a coherent art-historical lineage for new materialist and OOO-inspired art, starting with process art or the ready-made and continuing through to contemporary bio-art, in which nonhuman agency is preeminent? What is the impact on artistic practice of post-human theories such as new materialism and OOO that question art history's humanist outlook by decentering the human? To what extent do new materialist, perspectivist and OOO-inspired art overcome the oppositions between form, idea, matter and object?