New materialism

New Materialism is an emerging trend in 21st century thought in several fields of inquiry, including philosophy, cultural theory, feminism, science studies, and the visual arts. Defined around the primacy of matter and its properties and actions, New Materialism re-works long-held assumptions about the nature of the stuff of the universe. It responds to the need for novel accounts of agency, nature and social relationships in the contemporary epoch, when new questions have arisen about our place as embodied humans in the world and the ways we produce, reproduce and consume our material environment.

In this challenge to invent new ways to understand the contemporary world, the visual arts have a special place given their concern with the manipulation of matter. For the artist or craftsperson in the studio or workshop, New Materialism can articulate and give agency to existing creative processes, and offer opportunities for new modes of authorship and expanded interpretations of materials and objects and our relationships with them.

How has contemporary practice embraced object oriented ontology to re-think questions about the embodied human in the material world?

How has contemporary art engaged with the agency of matter and the non-human in today’s human fractured world of bio-cyber-technologies?

How has contemporary art practice, in visual or other media, embraced New Materialist thinking in the areas of political economy, post-humanism and geopolitics?


Future Stratigraphy

Sean O’Connell, Silicon carbide study, 2015. Lith emulsion exposed with 35,000 volts dc across silicon carbide. Courtesy the artist.

Future Stratigraphy

The Future Stratigraphy project comprises an exhibition, symposium and masterclass that will explore ways of understanding and envisioning the materiality of landscape, and the repercussions of human impact on the earth. Find out more

Past projects

Transversal Practices: Matter, Ecology and Relationality conference, September 2015
2014 Graduate School Conference


Oliver Smith (research cluster leader)
Andrew Lavery
Rebecca Beardmore
Madeleine Boyd
Mikala Dwyer
Matthys Gerber
David Haines
Joyce Hinterding
Julie Rrap
Justene Williams

External member:
Associate Professor Barbara Bolt