Materiality and Mediality

The early modern materiality and mediality section is devoted to the study of the bodily dimension of works of art (their materiality) and the role it plays in the way these objects communicate (their mediality).

A work of art can be understood as a solid or semi-solid agglomeration of components that each have their own sensual properties – e.g. pulverous, fibrous, venous, liquid – and practical implications – e.g. making the work portable, interactive or recyclable. Many consequences of this material embodiment have been overlooked by the fields of visual studies and early modern art history. This is the case, for example, of the dynamic properties of artistic materials, namely the way they react to movement, touch, heat or light.

Elaine Reichek, SETI, 2004, hand embroidery on linen, 101,6 x 144,8 cm (40 x 57 in.)

This research focus proposes to look anew at the visual culture of the early modern period by devoting special attention to overlooked materials and medial properties. Of particular interest are the various ways in which these materials and medial properties contribute to the communicative efficacy of a work or a display, as well as their impact on the aesthetic, social and ritual use of objects. The section builds on previous research on early modern textiles.

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