6th Meeting “In Flux: New Perspectives in Research on Materials and Materiality”

In the final meeting, the research network summarises its conceptual and methodological work with particular focus on the question of how art historical and cultural research on material/ity could be advanced. With regard to our approach, we assess in more detail which hitherto neglected aspects of matter the theoretical reorientation brings to the fore. The basic principles of the network’s perspective can be outlined as follows: attention is given to the changeable world of materials rather than to the hardware of the material world; substances and material processes are central rather than objects and things; focus is on the aesthetics and epistemology of the fluid rather than the aesthetics and epistemology of the concrete; we aim to develop foundations for a material theory rather than a theory of materiality.

In order to further and cultivate a profound “material literacy” (Lehmann) for art history and cultural studies, thus, it is pivotal to acknowledge fluid matter too, i.e. processual material phenomena and substances in motion. This alternative focus on materials in flux does not reject existing approaches and their findings altogether. Rather, it systematically broadens and complements common perspectives. Accordingly, we ask how a more comprehensive account and a more complex concept of our world of materials might be developed. Last but not least, we discuss which aesthetic, pedagogic, and curatorial means and strategies are required to impart a material knowledge of the fluid.