5th Meeting “Changing Materials: Phases, Currents, Stases”

March 5, 2021

Critical engagement with matter in motion has to acknowledge that material flows and circulations of substances are by no means constant and continuous. Thus, we have to consider the variable mobility and performance as well as the various temporalities and scales of material goings-on. This applies to both the global currents of materials, i.e. the economic and industrial mobilisation of substances, and the processuality of materials themselves: they run through diverse phases of acceleration, intensification, concentration, transition, or retardation. Accordingly, fluidity is characterised by manifold and relative dynamics rather than being a uniform phenomenon. In this meeting, we will discuss different orders of flow, fluctuations and turbulences, disruptions and mixtures, changing degrees of viscosity and stratification. We will focus on the variety of material movements and transformations.

The assertion that the world of materials is in a state of flux, therefore, is not equivalent to the idea that we deal with a homogenous stream or that everything flows equally. What has to be rethought is the variability of material processes, which depend on numerous internal and external factors, and take place within diverse orders of time and magnitude. One goal of the meeting is to look for alternatives to the theoretical homogenisation of materials that is common in both art history and cultural studies. In addition, we will ask how art historical and cultural analysis can adequately take into account the simultaneity of multiple temporal registers and spatial dimensions that is characteristic of changing materials.



Jens Soentgen (Augsburg): History of Substances. Conflictual Materials and the Mobilization of Matter

Maria Janus (Berlin): Joan Brigham’s Immersive Steam Environments


Reading material

Ecology of Materials

Ingold, Tim: „Toward an Ecology of Materials“, in: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 41, 2012, pp. 427–442.

Mauelshagen, Franz: „Die große Stoffwechselanomalie“, in: Transformationsgesellschaften. Zum Wandel gesellschaftlicher Naturverhältnisse, (= Ökonomie und Gesellschaft, Vol. 30), edited by Michaela Christ, Bernd Sommer and Klara Helene Stumpf, Weimar bei Marburg 2019, pp. 17–46.