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?


The Space of the Biomedical Body Symposium

Biomedical Body banner

Held on August 23rd, 2017, the Space of the Biomedical Body Symposium investigated the intersections of contemporary art and medical science practice within and around the biomedical body. Bringing together artists, curators, researchers and scientists, the cross-disciplinary event focused on the dynamic research, creative potential, emotions and challenges inherent in working with live human materialities. Presented by the New Materialism research cluster and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in conjunction with Fiona Davies’ installation, Blood on Silk: Last Seen, the inaugural Turbine Hall Commission at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

Guest speakers:

Fiona Davies – Artist and PhD candidate at Sydney College of the Arts
Ryan Jefferies – Creative Director Science Gallery
John A Douglas – Artist
Lizzy Marshall – Public Arts Officer Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
Helen Pynor – Artist and Research Affiliate at Sydney College of the Arts
Danica Knezevic – Artist and PhD candidate at Sydney College of the Arts

Full program
Event photos


Future Stratigraphy

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

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