Materiality, Body and Art Practice 
Jan Lorenz (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Brunei Gallery - B201
Sunday 3 June, 9:00-10:30, 11:00-12:30 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel brings together artists and social researchers to discuss the embodied, material and sensory dimensions of art practice and explore the potential for creative and theoretical synergies and collaborations between art and anthropology.

Long Abstract

Material objects and the flesh have long been in the centre of creative practice, from traditional craftwork to contemporary performance art exploring and testing the boundaries of the human body. Anthropological engagement with folk and indigenous art has a history going back to the precursors of the discipline. More recently, anthropology's shift toward the senses, materiality, and corporeality was augmented and deepened by audio-visual and practice-based methodologies on one hand, and discussions grounded in phenomenology, actor-network theory and the debates invoked by the ontological turn on the other hand.

This panel brings together artists, anthropologists and scholars combining practice and scientific research, coming from such diverse territories of intellectual and creative engagement. The aim is to think through art as a way of knowing, representing and evoking lived and imagined realities. It is also an opportunity to explore the epistemological potential of methods and collaborations crossing the disciplinary boundaries, particularly in the study of material and bodily phenomena.

Hopefully, what emerges from this encounter is not just a deeper understanding of the place of bodies and things in art practice, but inspiration for rethinking the potential for combining art and anthropology in research and creative work. Despite the recent surge in theoretical reflection on such collaborations, the promises and limits of productive encounters between these two modes of engagement are far from being adequately explored and theorized.

Accepted papers:


Angelika Boeck (Dublin Institute of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

‚Portrait as Dialogue' investigates how an art practice can disclose the processes involved in any attempts to represent otherness by exploring different culture specific modes of representation and by positioning the artist/researcher and the cultural actor both as subject and object'.

Paper long abstract:

‚Portrait as Dialogue' is a series of experimental practice-based research projects spanning more than a decade and continuing into the present. Together they investigate how an art practice can disclose the processes involved in any attempts to represent otherness, including different groups such as Westafrican wood carvers, Sámi singers, Australian Aboriginal hunters or people in Yemen, who use other cultural codes and perspectives. Building on alterity as condition of interaction, the projects were based on the hypothesis that we as artists and practitioners are inscribed and present in our creative representation of the ‚other'. The clou of 'Portrait as Dialogue' is the strategic reversal of classical perspectives: the role of the artist as the sole performer and the status of the researcher as outside observer are overturned. As artist I am initiator of the projects and, at the same time the object of the portrayals, while the project contributors are not only subjective portrayers but also the objects portrayed.

The resulting art projects celebrate and draw attention to the fact that besides the Western tradition of 'portrayal' a rich potential of representational means exists - a potential which remains largely unperceived as such, and therefore unexplored - thereby exploring how it may be possible to remove vision and the visual as the organizing methodological and analytical frame by which the Other can be represented.


Jan Lorenz (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the work of artists who use sensory media installations to evoke and represent their personal experience of disability. I will consider their work in order to critically reflect on the potential of incorporating artistic methods into anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers, from the anthropological perspective, the conceptual and creative processes where artists use complex sensory and digital media to communicate their personal experience of physical disability. I will discuss my engagements with the artists and their work in order to critically reflect on the potential of incorporating artistic methods into anthropology oriented towards sensory ethnography and digital media installations. Forms of representation, evocation and collaboration I will consider can have a particular impact on anthropological work focused on bodily states, medical conditions and sensorial experience. These case studies will also allow me to critically evaluate approaches to anthropology and art as distinct and, at times, radically alternate disciplines — modes of creative practice and communication.


Pooja Kaul (Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the act of drawing as the abundant ability to pause, reflect and engage reflexively with the world afforded to human beings. The deep relation of the active work of art to the body-mind complex, as presented in Indian thought traditions, will be discussed.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing is directly related to the phenomenon of breathing, in how it navigates the deep structures of the body-mind complex with fluid ease. For this reason, excavating the micro-processes that participate in, and enable drawing to take place, also allows excavating the microstructures of the self.

This fascinating ability to navigate infinities of material and mind seems extra-ordinary to thought, yet it is the most constant way in which we are ordinary. For most practitioners of drawing, therefore, the approach to everyday life is a continuous and dialogic process, whether spread over years of practice or even across multiple strokes in one drawing or just one breath drawn with some awareness.

Multiple states of existence participate in this non-static work of art. The tangible drawing itself becomes a living map of this dynamic work.

Indian aesthetic thought, rooted in Kashmir Shaiva philosophy provides one such ontological framework, to follow these journeys of creative action through various subtleties of the mental and material realms. This paper hopes to discuss these complex structures that enable the composure in the act of drawing.


Marceau Chenault (East China Normal University)
Petra Johnson (Tongji University)
Yinan Zhang (Tongji University)

Paper short abstract:

This study use motion capture technology to record, visualize and analyze the interactional gesture between a human dancer and a nonhuman object. The concept of body archive is discuss trough a continuum of movement modes emerging in the experimental and artistic installation.

Paper long abstract:

Ontological turns in the human sciences invite anthropologists to question the cultural perception of what it is to be human and identify oneself with reference to the nonhuman. Beyond ontological perspectives, Bioart questions the ontogenitic capacities of the subject in relation to her/his technical agencies and nonhuman forces. In this study of and through an experimental performance that observes the space between a dancer and an object, we postulate that the interaction between the dancer and the thread in suspension around him enfolds a continuum of movement modes. Using computer algorithms, the qualities between human and nonhuman are compared and converted into diagrams. These highlight both similarities and differences in order to make visible the space of negotiation between the human/non-human. Spectators are invited to help articulate the poetical and intersubjective relations of this human/non-human performance. In our final analysis, we will be exploring three variables within the installation: generative or repetitive, sensorial or artificial, human or nonhuman. Further, these three dimensions allow us to define an anthropology of movements based on six different modes: internal, codified, spontaneous, improvised, performative, unperformed.