Thus, through the colonization of the arts by cultural theory,
arts very materiality has disappeared into the textual,
the linguistic and the discursive. According to this
conception, art is constructed in and through language.
There is noting outside of discourse and language is its vehicle.
Barbara Bolt, “Introduction.”
Towards a ‘New Materialism’ Through the Arts. 2013. (4)
In the initial stages of Toward a “New Materialism” Through the Arts, Bolt simultaneously introduces “New Materialism” through the identification of failings or lacks in historical and recent philosophical and sociological stances regarding the mind/body/culture connections to the material world. She progresses chronologically from Plato to the contemporary constructivist position. In this quote, she begins dissecting the problematic structure in constructivist’s notion that seem to deny material existence and its implication on man’s experience, thought, and generative processes. In sketching out the inherent problems in the series of significant Western stances, she guides us into what “New Materialism” is and how it might reframe our approach to art.
I think I love you in a purely carnal Platonic scholarly way Barbara Bolt, maybe even more than Judith Butler, and we only just met! And thank you Bolt for clearing my path of understanding with Bennett for me.
Don’t worry Barbara Bolt, you are still one of my new heroes for so accurately describing my lived experience as artist. Glad to know I am riding the wave of “New Materialism”
—- bahahaaaa —-
Whilst materialist feminist theory has struggled to disentangle matter from discourses on matter, it may be argued that the art is a material practice and that materiality of matter lies at the core of creative practices. — Bolt. (5)
What is inherently funny is that Bolt along with her primary function of this statement in her argument uses this sentence to associate “New Materialism” directly with materialist feminist theory. She actually never directly links the two, but simply connatively attaches them by physical proximity in the first sentence of this paragraph. So how does this statement really function? Ha. It makes the reader associate “New Materialism” with materialist feminist theory as though feminists are the author of this approach. Admittedly if one watches the video documentation of Womanhouse 1971, potentially this link could be substantiated. Bolt never substantiates the significant role of feminism, particularly feminism as it played out in the artworld, to the surfacing of “New Materialism.” Perhaps it is an assumed, and I as scholarly outsider riding the fringe of the academic herd as neophyte, just can’t see what should be smacking me in the face as a given.
—— —— —— —— —— —— ——
The story will highlight the extent to which human being
and thinghood overlap, the extent to which the us and the it
slip-slide into each other.
– Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things.”
Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. (4)
Bennett approaches the slippery topic and nature of nonhuman thingness that is enlivened with “agentic capacities” of a particular efficacy in the moment we open ourselves to receive it with its narrative vitality. Got it? No? The above quote is a transitional summative statement in her process. Within Bennett’s transition, she recaps the way that the thinginess of an object is established as the human and thinghood intersect, penetrate and enliven one another as the object becomes Other. Even in this clarification it is difficult to pin down the expansiveness of what she means by thingness. As seen in my explanation of her summation, the elusive nature of her subject remains elusive—I linked thingness to her notion of object as Other, but her definition is far broader in that thingness is not only Object but an actant, which is neither an object or subject but an operator, therefore, potentially negating thingness’ capacity to be Other but something other. Bennett’s recap is both summative and illusive and thus the transition into explanations framed on experiential examples—“The story will highlight.” Ultimately, this whole chapter functions to establish what she means by thingness, the capacity of thingness, and its reflective traits that reveal our capacity to be both enlivener of materiality, operator, and object, nonhuman. This elusive understanding will be important to grasp the speculative implications of thingness through the rest of her book.0