From the latter half of the twentieth century onwards, the material factor in artistic creation has not received the attention it merits, in all likelihood because it is deemed routine and irksome. Does materiality stick? The artistic endeavours of the studio, with their codes and regulatory procedures, have been progressively demoted, whilst a diverse range of matter experimented with over the past one hundred years has been on the rise.
Matter, and its selection and treatment, is another strand of artistic practice; yet due to its complexity, art history has not provided enough analysis tools to study it. One cross-disciplinary approach encompassing concepts and methods from studies of gender, anthropology, applied sciences and cognitive theories, among others, questions matter whilst enhancing its interpretation, but without diminishing the relevance of other possible meanings — the field is thus expanded, not reduced. Setting out from an analysis and study of specific works, for instance Dieter Roth’s Sea of Chocolate and The Brukman Workers. 8 Suits with Parallel Stories, by Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann, this lecture will address material culture, the polysemy of materials and their political and sociological capacity, the different historical paradigms that have assessed the solidity and nobility of material, and the skill and adroitness of the artist in creating long-lasting and symbolic works.
Carmen Bernárdez is an art historian and professor in the Contemporary Art Department at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her international academic studies in two traditionally opposing disciplines — art history and restoration — outline a research arc focused on the technique of the artwork understood as a cultural process. Drawing from these directives, she has written essays, edited catalogues and curated exhibitions on avant-garde artists across history, such as Ángel Ferrant, Pablo Gargallo, María Blanchard and Pablo Picasso, and has published the books Historia del arte. Primeras vanguardias (Planeta, 1994), Joseph Beuys (Nerea, 1999) and María Blanchard (Fundación Mapfre 2009), as well as contributing to a broad number of collective publications.