Power of Material / Politics of Materiality (2012/13)


The first annual topic of the cx centre for interdisciplinary studies at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München (Academy of Fine Arts Munich) A re-evaluation of material is currently taking place in the visual arts, architecture, and design. Young artists are combining crude or unusual materials with a minimalist formal idiom and in doing so place the focus on their physis and aesthetic qualities. There is talk about "new alchemists", about interaction with and "being guided" by material.


In the same breath, the cultural and social sciences are proclaiming a "material turn", as there are reports of a "parallel refocusing of research" (Bachmann-Medick) on materiality in numerous scientific disciplines. The French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour points out that (natural) scientific facts are not only generated by social practices and linguistic discourses, but also by the resistant materiality of things. In the field of archaeology, Colin Renfrew speaks of a "material engagement approach", which highlights the material world's active role in the development of social structures, religious concepts, or social value systems. Thus, one is currently rediscovering the material aspects of the generation of knowledge and social practices as well as of processes of communication and aesthetic productions. In addition, material research has been coming up with a large number of new materials, in particular in the last two decades, that are believed to hold the potential for a fundamental transformation of the economy as well as society as a whole.


The interdisciplinary study programme at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München is devoting its first annual topic to the current boom of material and materiality in the various artistic and scientific disciplines. The focus is on the rediscovered resistance and influence of material phenomena in the artists and sciences, on their active roles in social, artistic, and epistemic processes.


The programme takes this topic as the point of departure for the material basis of all artistic and design work, as the material conditions for creative and developmental processes. It analyzes the contemporary treatment of material in the fine arts, architecture, and design in theory and practice and relates it to a redefinition and re-evaluation of material in the natural and social sciences. One of the central questions will be whether the latter also hold the potential for social and geopolitical change or ethically motivated behaviour modification, as the representatives of "New Materialism" suggest.