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Change the world

Event location: Bird Street Gallery, Nelson Mandela University

Event date and time: 23/09/2020 00:00:00


Exhibited in collaboration with the 14th National Conference of the South African Journal of Art History, 25 - 27 September


It is what it is, and it is what it isn’t. It is when it is, and it is when it isn’t.


Materiality is a concept both in art theory and, interestingly, law. In law, materiality refers to something having relevance or significance. In art theory, materiality refers to the physicality of the art object: its material presence whether that is clay, paint, fabric, light, pixels, screens, or sound waves, but beyond the materials used it also refers to the genesis of the work and the conditions of its creation and reception, so when and where it was made, by whom, where and under what conditions, the relationship between work and maker, and even potentially the relationship between the work and the audience (Mills 2009: 1). This means that materiality also includes a consideration of time and place (Mills 2009:1):
 

Materiality in works of art extends beyond the simple fact of physical matter to broadly encompass all relevant information related to the work’s physical existence; the work’s production date and provenance, its history and condition, the artist’s personal history as it pertains to the origin of the work and the work’s place in the canon of art history are all relevant to the aesthetic experience.
 

The artwork’s physicality, those aspects that can be sensed and verified by viewers, is a first consideration; physicality impacts content and, subsequently, meaning. Another aspect of materiality as a theory is that art locates viewers within their corporeal selves by engaging the senses; such experiences are, naturally, unique and individual to each viewer. The aesthetic experience is evoked first through art’s physical components, and then through an intellectual engagement with materiality in the broad sense, through time.