CFP: Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization

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I am co-convening a panel at the Royal Anthropology Institute’s Art, Materiality and Representation conference hosted by the British Museum/SOAS, 1st-3rd June 2018 and I would like to use this blog post to warmly invite paper proposals for our panel “Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization

Call for papers is open now until 8th January 2018. To submit a paper, please see: https://nomadit.co.uk/rai/events/rai2018/conferencesuite.php/panels/6075

Further details can be found below

(P025) Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization

Convenors:  Ros Holmes, University of Oxford (ros.holmes@history.ox.ac.uk) and Emilie Le Febvre, University of Oxford (emilie.lefebvre@anthro.ox.ac.uk)

Short abstract

This panel examines the practices by which artists and media-makers from non-Western contexts are progressively re-materializing digital content in order to increase the exclusivity, cultural capital, and visibility of their aesthetic and cultural creations.

Long abstract

At a time in which our experience of cultural artefacts is often physically removed by digitization, this panel seeks papers that consider the practices, politics, and affects of re-materializing artworks from diverse geographical perspectives. The process of de- to re-materialization has been referred to by David Joselit as a ‘comedy of matter’; a situation in which the most ”immaterial” of formats—digital information—has paradoxically led to a proliferation of material states. This metastasizing of media formats can in effect render a quantum of data into a printed photograph, a 3-D print or an analogue sculpture, facilitating a variety of practices from bootlegging and creative appropriation to the return of cultural heritage. These processes of re-materialization have subsequently led to the formation of ‘agile objects’: cultural artefacts whose value may have originally resided in their authentic forms but today are revered for their capacity as digital files to take on several distinct forms simultaneously.

While these practices among artists, media-makers and museums have been the focus of increasing scholarly attention, their theorization and prevalence beyond Western contexts remains largely unexplored. Redressing this imbalance, we premise that art historical and anthropological examinations of re-materialization can provide unique perspectives about the politics of cultural capital from the Near East to East Asia, Australia to Latin America. This multi-disciplinary panel therefore invites papers that consider the transposition of digital content into objects of material, commercial and collectable value, exploring the capacity of these ‘agile objects’ to shape artistic and museum practices.

We welcome papers that critically address re-materialization from disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, particularly from artistic practitioners.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The role of re-materialization as alternative document and archive
  • Acts of appropriation, ‘bootlegging’ and copying
  • Exhibition histories and collecting
  • Issues of authority, access and ownership
  • Modelling, GIS, 3-D printing
  • Cultural heritage returns and digital repatriation
  • Re-materialization as artistic practice
  • The role that re-materialization plays in mediating our experience of the visual

November 10th, 2017

Party Poopers

Can art bring down the government? 

By: Louisa Lim       Source: Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel    Date: 7/11/17

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“Contemporary arts must also take patriotism as a theme, leading the people to establish and maintain correct views of history, nationality, statehood, and culture while firmly building up the integrity and confidence of the Chinese people.” – Xi Jinping, October 2015

In late July, after the death of Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, a ghostlike picturematerialised on walls around the world in Melbourne, Sydney, Ottawa, New York City, Taiwan, Dublin, and even Beijing. It showed images of Liu Xiaobo floating skywards, hand in hand with his wife Liu Xia, with blank white expanses where their facial features should have been. This was the work of Badiucao, a radical Chinese artist who, like Banksy, hides behind a pseudonym. He keeps his identity secret out of caution: “If you’re spreading negative energy like me, drawing criminals of the state, you become a problem.”

Such work was designed with one aim in mind: to survive inside the Great Firewall. To create a participatory art phenomenon, Badiucao uploaded the work so it could be printed out, and purposely made it easy to copy. This led to the second wave of reposts, of the picture appearing on walls around the wall, followed by a third wave of selfies from the different sites. Liu Xiaobo might have disappeared from the corporeal world and the pages of state-run newspapers, but Badiucao was determined he should live on in cyberspace.

In this way, a new breed of Chinese political artists has turned the borderless expanse of cyberspace into a virtual studio, a collaboration space and a digital museum, creating and sharing work about China that might not be shown there. Hong Kong artist Sampson Wong Yu-hin – part of the Add Oil Team with Jason Lam Chi-fai – also created a virtual, participatory homage to the Nobel laureate, asking people to record themselves reading Liu’s famous “I have no enemies” speech, which he was forbidden from finishing in court. The result – mostly in Cantonese – is especially poignant, with the young voices serving as a Greek chorus of doomladen augury. Continue reading