New Materialism in Contemporary Art
A Practice Led Research cluster based at the Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney, Australia

New Materialism is an emerging trend in 21st century thought in several fields of inquiry, including philosophy, cultural theory, feminism, science studies, and the visual arts. Defined around the primacy of matter and its properties and actions, the New Materialism re-works long held assumptions about the stuff of the universe. It responds to the need for novel accounts of agency, nature and social relationships in the contemporary epoch, when new questions have arisen about our place as embodied humans in the world and the ways we produce, reproduce and consume our material environment.

In this challenge to invent new ways to understand the contemporary world, the visual arts have a special place given their concern with the manipulation of matter. For the artist or craftsperson in the studio or workshop, New Materialism can articulate and give agency to existing creative processes, and offer opportunities for new modes of authorship and expanded interpretations of materials and objects and our relationships with them.

Theme areas engaged by the New Materialism Research Cluster (NMRC):

  • Transversal movement between biophysical science and art;
  • Non-human agencies at play in performative artwork;
  • Artists engaging partial affinities with materials and matter;
  • Ontologies of matter and materials (ontologies in art);
  • Multispecies aesthetics and posthumanism;
  • Anthropocene and climate change; and
  • Socio-political agencies of things.

For more information contact NMRC coordinator Oliver Smith, or NMRC research assistant Kath Fries, at sca.newmaterialism@sydney.edu.au

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