Studies in Material Thinking, in collaboration with organisers of the conference Image Matter: Art and Materiality (Manchester Metropolitan University, November 2015), is calling for contributions to a special issue of new research articles to be published in late 2017. Conference participants are especially encouraged to submit papers, though the call is open to all researchers.

How do we – as artists, makers, viewers, participants, historians, theorists – make sense of the material substance of art practice and product? Confronted with the work of art (object, environment, performance), the viewer is at once both granted access to, and rebuffed from, the material at hand. However available the material may be, to touch, gaze, taste, smell or aural perception, it still exceeds comprehensive reduction to a particular sense. Conversely – confronted with the viewer (participant, maker, historian), the work’s excess of material presence both offers itself to, and resists, sensory assimilation. Vision becomes vertiginal imbalance, a sound’s fragility approaches the tactile, and aqueous smell is enmeshed with its own colour. Already inscribed in this confrontation – between work and viewer, material and maker, individual senses and their somaesthetic contiguity – is a consolidation of the mutual ‘between’.

A growing body of argument in visual and material culture studies has rejected the pre-eminence of ‘the disembodied eye’ in favour of a wider range of somatic bodily responses. Similarly, the material physicality of the art object in its myriad forms—surface, texture, weight, spatial extension, sound etc—has recaptured our attention. Academic concepts of materiality (Miller, Gell, Tilley) and their refutation (Ingold); the emergence of New Materialism (Barad, Bennett, Braidotti, DeLanda) and object-oriented ontologies (Bryant, Harman) aim to negotiate or reject the dualisms of mind and matter, sensory perception and making sense. And yet, James Elkins has argued that, even if there has been a ‘material turn’, visual culture remains fearful of the material: ‘art history, visual studies, Bildwissenschaft, and art theory take an interest in materiality provided that the examples of materiality remain at an abstract or general level’.

This special issue will explore attitudes towards visual art through sensorial perception and material thinking. What happens in the friction of interaction between person and artwork? Between the sensuous and the making-sense-of? How do artists negotiate (the) material in the process of working with/against it? And in turn, how can the writer recapture the material(ity) of the work and convey it? If the sensorium of seeing, tasting, feeling and hearing exceeds the rationality of disciplinary categories and the systematisation of knowledge, how can thinking about and through art access affective objects? Is this what constitutes meaning? Contributors will address the possibility, form or framing of access to the material in light of developing discourses that implicate visual and material culture studies and practices.

Submission deadlines:
• Deadline for submission of 350-word abstract: 20 July 2016
• Deadline for full papers: December 2016
• Peer review, revision and preparation of final drafts: Dec 2016 – May 2017
• Deadline for revised drafts: July 2017
• Copyediting and design formatting: Jul – Oct 2017
Expected publication: November 2017

Liz Mitchell |
Tilo Reifenstein |

Nancy de Freitas |
Studies in Material Thinking, ISSN 1177-6234
School of Art and Design, Faculty of Design & Creative Technologies,
AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.

Please send your proposals to the two co-editors. Feel free to contact them directly if you wish to explore ideas related to the content and format of a submission.