Archive | December, 2006

Material Connexion

Haidy Geismar, NYU
Material Connexion is a “material library” based in New York, Cologne, Bangkok, and Milan. The Library houses over 3,500 new and innovative materials representing eight categories: polymers, glass, ceramics, carbon-based materials, cement-based materials, metals, natural materials and natural material derivatives. It is a resource for designers, architects, and so on, to touch materials, assess their viability in new projects, learn about new technologies and techniques.
Click here to download an article about the library from Dwell Magazine: Download file (.pdf)
However, these materials are oddly decontextualised in this setting, with its overt focus on technology. For instance, one of the success stories cited on the website highlights the capability of materials to be redefined through the process of product design.…

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The Materiality of the Funeral of King Tupou IV of Tonga

Dr. Fanny Wonu Veys, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Metropolitan Museum of Art
In September 2006, I worked closely with the Tonga Traditions Committee, whose employees were recording the best they could all the events pertaining to the funeral of King Tupou IV. King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga, the fourth king in the modern dynasty of Tongan rulers died after forty-one years of reign on 10 September in a New Zealand hospital. Through genealogy, Tupou IV embodied the three royal lines of Tu’i Tonga, Tu’i Kanokupolo and Tu’i Takalaua.







Thursday 21 September 2006. Catholic schoolchildren bring
dozens of cakes for presentation
Monday 18 September 2006. People from Niuatoputapu prepare
to enter the palace grounds with barkcloth, fine mats, and a basket.
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Vik Muniz

Haidy Geismar, NYU
Whilst of course, all art is material culture, Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist, who I saw in September at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery in Chelsea, New York is one of the few contemporary artists whose work resonates profoundly with material culture studies in its own right, without needing the meditation of critical discourse.
Muniz himself outlines the importance of materiality in his own artist’s manifesto:
“Basically, we artists make art so we can evidence the materialization of an idea, to test it in the material world, only in the end to transform it back into actual visual stimuli, making a connection between ourselves and the world we live in” (Vik Muniz, Reflex: a Vik Muniz Primer, 2005, Aperture Foundation, page 22)

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International Symposium of Arts in Society

Welcome to the website of 2007 International Symposium on the Arts in Society. Held mid way between the annual International Conference on the Arts in Society (held in 2006 in conjunction with the Edinburgh Festivals), we will work in collaboration with New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and its Center for Art and Public Policy. Similar to our full annual conferences, this mid-year Arts Symposium will address a range of critically important themes relating to the arts today. The symposium will run in conjunction with The Armory Show International Art Fair, one of the leading and largest visual art fairs in the world. Conference presenters will include artists and organisers involved in The Armory Show, as well as leading theorists and practitioners from NYU and our International Advisory Board.…

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Touch and Object Handling in the Context of Museums

UCL Museums & Collections is running a series of workshops exploring touch and object handling in the context of museums. This series is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The third workshop centres on ‘Touch and memory: the role of reminiscence’ – see details below:
Workshop 3: “Touch and memory: the role of reminiscence”
University College London
Archaeology Lecture Theatre
Friday 5th January, 2007, 10 am – 4 pm

  • Dr. Alberto Gallace, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
  • Professor Mike Rowlands, Department of Anthropology, University College London
  • Emma Clarke, Head of Audience Development and Communities, Learning and Information Department, British Museum
  • Laura Phillips, Audience Development and Communities, Learning and Information Department, British Museum
  • Bernie Arigho, Director of Reminiscence Research and Development, Age Exchange
    To book a place and/or for further information contact Devorah Romanek on email:
  • Therapeutic approaches to touch: Object handling and hospital patients
    Friday 2 February 2007, Royal London Homeopathic Hospital
  • Knowledge transfer in object handling: with specific reference to disadvantaged or
    underrepresented groups.
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Judy Attfield

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Judy Attfield, one of the pioneers of contemporary material culture studies who did so much to demonstrate the value of this approach. Judy started her academic career within a discipline called design history that was largely devoted to hagiographic accounts of great designers and the history of great designs, both of which almost entirely ignored the wider context of understanding the form and style of the world of goods most people lived with. Thanks to her textbook Wild Things and a series of exemplary studies she transformed Design History into a study of the intimate relationship between populations and the common form and design of mundane material culture.…

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Hoarding and Disposal in Tokyo

Fabio Gygi, PhD Student, Anthropology, University College London and University of Tokyo
My project is concerned with accumulation of things, attachment to things and with what psychiatrists call ‘hoarding’. My initial interest was whether by reformulating a psychiatric concern with deviance in terms of material culture, a broader understanding of the relationships people entertain with their possessions could be gained. Hoarding seemed to be an appropriate subject, because a) it required understanding of seemingly irrational behavior (feeling attached to things others consider as ‘rubbish’) and b) because recent anthropological concepts of ownership, possession and attachment and their influence on how we think about things, minds and selves could be put to the test (and put to the test they are…).
While hoarders in psychiatric literature are often described as ‘cannot throw things away’, my fieldwork among inhabitants of gomiyashiki in Tokyo (lit.…

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Thinking Through Things

Daniel Miller, UCL
On Thursday 7th December a book launch was held for a new volume Thinking Through Things. Edited by A Henare, M Holbraad and S Wastell and published by Routledge.
The book is clearly of interest to anyone in material culture studies. The primary theme is concerned with transcending any dualism between things and concepts, for which purpose there is considerable engagement with epistemological and ontological issues. The intention is not to develop a new theory, but rather to affirm an analytical methodology, that anthropologists could utilise to gain insights in their various studies. The inspiration is quite clearly the work of Marilyn Strathern, and the degree to which this clearly represents a cadre of younger scholars working enthusiastically to related themes is testimony to her inspiration at Cambridge.…

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Material Religion

Barbara Kirschenblatt Gimblett, NYU
Mitzvah Kinder figurines, right to left: Malkeleh, Moishy, Totty (Father), Mommy, and Baby Chaim. “The ‘Mitzvah Kinder’ has been designed to represent a Yiddishe family in the world of children’s play and imagination. Our charming characters made of soft lightweight rubber, makes them safe, durable and irresistible. So make the ‘Mitzvah Kinder’ part of your family.”
The Working Group on Jews, Media, and Religion at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media is contributing to a special issue of Material Religion dedicated to Jews edited by Jeffrey Shandler and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. The articles in this issue examine the role that material culture plays in the intersection of Jews, media, and religion. Our goal in this endeavor is to explore the range of material culture–the designing, production, dissemination, collecting, inventorying, and use of things–as media in Jewish religious life, past and present, broadly defined.…

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