Technical Art History Colloquium XI: ‘Materials & Materiality in Art History’, 13 April 2017, Utrecht
The Technical Art History Colloquium is organised by Sven Dupré (Utrecht University and University of Amsterdam, PI ERC ARTECHNE), Arjan de Koomen (University of Amsterdam, Coordinator MA Technical Art History), and Abbie Vandivere (University of Amsterdam, Coordinator MA Technical Art History & Paintings Conservator, Mauritshuis, The Hague). Monthly meetings take place on Thursdays, usually in Utrecht and Amsterdam.
Speakers will be Alexandra Lipinska (LMU Munich), on the meaning of alabaster (Renaissance), and Geoffrey Gowlland (University of Oslo). This edition of the colloquium is connected to the course ‘Materials & Materiality in Art History’ by Ann-Sophie Lehmann and Sven Dupré, organized in collaboration with Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis and the TU Delft (Margriet Eikema-Hommes, Sylvia Pont, Maarten Wijntjes).
‘How does material transmit meaning? The case of alabaster’
Meaning of/in material is a complex and dynamic conglomerate. It is rooted in the tension between the inherent features of a material and the characteristics ascribed to it as result of cultural practices in which it is involved. In my talk, I will examine the various mechanisms and domains in which the meaning of material emerges, using the example of alabaster. Firstly, I will focus on the natural features of the material: its relative softness, permitting easy carving (but also predestining impermanence), its translucency and colour(s), its varying availability, etc. In this context, the relationship between alabaster and ‘rival’ materials (marble, ivory) will be discussed. Secondly, I will look at ‘milieus’ other than the artistic in which the material has featured over the ages to consider whether these had an impact on the reception of alabaster as an artistic material. To this end, I will trace currents of opinion surrounding the material as an object of study of natural historians, theologians and philologists, as well as a topic for poets and writers.
‘Chinese concrete, indigenous slate: histories of materials and histories of people in Taiwan’
Gowlland’s talk will consider two materials that are part of the lives of the indigenous (Austronesian speaking) Paiwan people of Taiwan: concrete and slate. The first material is a ‘modern’ one, originating in the Taiwanese plains where the majority ethnic Chinese population resides. The second is a ‘local’ material, with particular significance for the Paiwan also in terms of heritage. Departing from the common anthropological approach of addressing building materials in economic terms, I consider them instead as both lived and living. He will ‘follow the materials’ (Tim Ingold) to understand their transformations as they move between places, and adopt the approach of subjectivation in a material world (Jean-Pierre Warnier) to reflect on the ways the trajectories of materials are enmeshed with the (political) histories of people. He argues that we should understand the adoption and continued use of materials as processes of co-becoming, whereby the subjectivities of people are transformed at the same time as the materials that surround them shift, mutate and decay.
Please download the invitation in PDF here.