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New Materialism and Visual Arts


Dr. Miriam van Rijsingen

Members of the research group

dr. Miriam .I.D. van Rijsingen
dr. Anja Novak
dr Annet Dekkers
prof dr. Mia Lerm Hayes
Janice McNab, MA
Prof. Dr. Rob Zwijnenberg (UL)
Nim Goede
Laura van Grinsven
Monique Peperkamp
Jonathan Rozenkrantz

Description of the research programme of the research group

In 2012 several international exhibitions (a.o.Whitney Biennial, Documenta(13) and Manifesta) showcased works that focussed on the agency of materials and material assemblages as well as on crafts and analogue techniques. At the same time an increasing number of texts can be found on new materialism, vibrant matter, and Object Oriented Ontology, more often than not in relation to ecological re-thinking of environmental and/or global changes and development. This research project investigates first of all the correlation between these visual/material/philosophical practices. These practices themselves point in the direction of several fundamental propositions made by artists, art theorists and philosophers, theorizing ‘the force of art’(Ziarek), suggesting that ‘art saves the world’ (Ja Natuurlijk exhibition, Den Haag 2013), or even envisaging a radical cultural and philosophical turn or shift after the Foucaultian ‘death of man’. Both anthropocentrism and humanism are at stake in debates circling those propositions. A ‘problem’ taken up cautiously by Jane Bennett in her book Vibrant Matter (2010). The aim of this research project is to analyse, interpret and evaluate contemporary cultural/philosophical tendencies concerning these topics. Ultimately to (re)position the visual/material arts as agentic force within these contemporary debates.

Envisaged results

Two articles in peer reviewed journals, as well as a papers presented at a conference Desired result is also to organise a conference in Amsterdam with theorists as well as artists. Furthermore this project is take as an investigative pre-project to develop an (international) research program.

Work plan and time schedule

With the conference the project will take two years, for which the first year will be devoted to research and writing both articles, and the second year to organise the conference as well as develop a proposal for a research program.

Societal relevance

This project relates to matters of ecology and sustainability as it reflects on and experiments with new technologies, materialities and the interconnectedness of humans, non-humans and matter. Artists and art theorists are able to present different perspectives on global issues and raise awareness of pressing environmental issues.

This research group is active in the following constellations: