Matter, (Im)materials and Materiality: On the life of digital artworks

Beryl Graham, University of Sunderland
Alexandra Moschovi, University of Sunderland

In recent years, the ‘material turn’ in contemporary art has re-activated critical debates around the matter and materials of art objects and their affective properties, expanding to consider their physical encounter and spatio-temporal parameters, as well as the idiosyncrasies of process-oriented forms and participation. Echoing the impulse of the dematerialisation of the art object that dominated Conceptual art, process-led practices and happenings in the 1960s and 1970s, digital art has often been discussed in terms of processes, systems and networks, and thus as immaterial. Yet, as Christiane Paul argues, the ‘myth of immateriality’ that surrounds digital artworks fails to address not only the materialisation of digital works in gallery contexts, their collection and preservation, but also the very materiality of digital technologies and their impact on physical reality. Paul (2015) proposes the concept of ‘neomateriality’ to capture on the one hand, ‘the confluence and convergence of digital technologies in various materialities’, and on the other hand, ‘the ways in which this merger has changed our relationship with these materialities and our representation as subjects’.

Contributions to the session explore how the (neo)materiality of digital artworks provides such points of exchange for artists, curators and publics. Art history, photography and new media scholars, curators and artists consider how the modularity of digital technologies, the convergence of media, and the new forms of materiality and making that come into being in contemporary digital art practices may renegotiate the experience of beholding within/beyond the physical, as well as gender politics and human/non-human interactions.


Moving beyond Myths: Curating expanded photographic practices
Catherine Troiano (National Photography Collections, National Trust; Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University)

Charlotte and Christine: Women, new media art and the politics of digital weaving
Amy Charlesworth (The Open University)

Neomateriality and Cyberfeminist Artistic Practices, Then and Now
Jen Kennedy (Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada)

Rebuild Curve: On the materialisation of virtual models in contemporary art fabrication
Frank Bauer (Berlin University of the Arts, Germany)

This is Your Wake-up Call
Sarah Cook (University of Glasgow)

The Artist as Avatar: Redefining materiality through LaTurbo Avedon
Stephanie Kang (The Ohio State University, USA)




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