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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

Materiality and History: Problems in Method

Michael Yonan 1, Elin Manker 2, Marlen Schneider 3

1 University Of California, Davis - Davis (United States), 2 Umeå University (Sweden), 3 Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble (France)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Art’s materiality is a stubbornly contemporary aspect of it. We encounter that materiality in our own moment, accessing it through our senses situated in a specific contemporary time and place. Therefore, our knowledge of materiality is rooted firmly in our experience of the present. Whether that knowledge can then lead to the historical understanding of art is a question. This panel seeks papers that discuss how closer attention to materiality challenges simplistic conceptions of the past in the methodology of art history – simplistic in the sense that writing about works of art, especially works of art from the remote past, automatically creates historical knowledge. Put in the terms offered recently by the literary theorist Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, there is a tension between history and presence in the experience of art. For Gumbrecht, presence challenges the metaphysical orientation of much academic work, which foregrounds interpretation as its goal, and has undervalued other modes of engaging works of art that are based in sensory reactions.

For art history, presence is closely linked to materiality. How should art historians configure material knowledge in relation to history? Is it possible to integrate materiality into established art-historical methodologies (iconography, the social history of art, gender studies approaches, etc.), or does materiality offer a point of rupture, breaking through ideological systems to insist on something outside of knowledge systems? Are there ways of formulating art-historical practice so that history and materiality remain in balance? Does materiality ask us to imagine a new kind of history through art? These questions require thinking about materiality as a methodological problem.