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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

Create, Recreate: Towards Experimental History of Art?

Eloïse Brac De La Perrière 1, Maxime Durocher 2, Elizabeth Lambourn 3

1Inha/sorbonne Université - Paris (France), 2Sorbonne Université - Paris (France), 3 De Monfort University, Leicester (United Kingdom)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Art historians have often been content to rely on textual or iconographic sources to determine the making processes and chaînes opératoires behind an artwork. But such sources do not always exist. In these cases, only the analysis of the artefact itself offers insights into the process of creation and the object becomes the main, even the unique, witness to its own genesis.

Experimental archaeology is now a well-established methodology for the recovery of such information in contexts without text. Hypotheses about an aspect of an object’s making or later lifecycle are first developed and then tested by re-making the object or material, and sometimes replicating its hypothetical usage.[1] Art history, by contrast, rarely turns to such methods of analysis, although some projects have recently adopted similar approaches; among them one can single out the Making and Knowing Project (Columbia University) and the Minding Making Project (Harvard), both since completed, and which centred on modern European and American artefacts. More recently such methods have been trialled as part of the ANR-funded CallFront project devoted to calligraphy in Arabic script from the frontiers of the Islamic world and based at Sorbonne Université and Institut national d’histoire de l’art. Under the banner of “recreative practices” dress and photographic historians at De Montfort University in the UK have embedded these methodologies in their research and teaching and recently ran an inter-disciplinary workshop on this question.[2] While acknowledging that a perfect “re-creation” is impossible – nor even the primary aim - together these projects have allowed researchers to question assumptions about the relationship between knowing and making, and have confirmed the huge potential of collaborative projects involving art historians, historians of technology, practice-based researchers and craftspeople to foreground embodied knowledges.[3] If art history is to follow these examples it must begin to define the experimental protocols most appropriate to its materials and integrate also a wealth of historical data (sources and availability of raw materials, technological and scientific context) in order to avoid anachronisms.

This session will examine a variety of experimental approaches across various art historical regions, periods and fields (from manuscripts, through objects and dress to architecture and interiors) in order to kickstart reflection and discussion about the future shape of an experimental art history.