Material Experience: Thinking With Objects
5th Annual UCR History of Art Graduate Student Conference

Culver Center of the Arts
May 21, 2016

New theories in art history, cultural studies, and philosophy have recently called attention to the power of matter in shaping our perception of the world. However, attention to materiality is nothing new. For example, in the 12th century, Abbot Suger defended his extravagant art program at St. Denis in part by inscribing on its doors that “the dull mind rises to the truth through material things.” Suger’s statement makes clear the profound and illuminating potential of material objects that has persisted, in varying forms, throughout history.

However, James Elkins has observed recently that fields of visual studies are characterized by an enduring disparity between written theories about objects and the embodied experience of one’s encounter, indicating more broadly what he calls a “fear of materiality.” At a time in which our experience of art, architecture, and other objects in visual culture is often physically removed through their circulation as digital images, this topic arrives with a detectable urgency. How should we in turn experience the things of the world? This multi-disciplinary conference will address how the material conditions of objects invigorate social, political, and aesthetic spheres.

Questions we seek to consider: What role does materiality have in shaping our perception of objects? How do emerging or established theories of materiality impact art history, visual studies, and other disciplines? And, accordingly, what are the limits of these theories? Do the means of production and exchange alter our perception of the material object? And finally, how does art, regarded as material culture, function as historical evidence?

We are honored to host Dr. Daniela Bleichmar, Associate Professor in the Departments of Art History and History at the University of Southern California, as this year’s keynote speaker.

Call for Papers (Submission deadline: March 1, 2016)

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