Monday, December 10, 2007

Materialty + Meaning : Examining Fiber and Material Studies

M a t e r i a l t y + M e a n i n g :
Examining Fiber and Material Studies
in Contemporary Art and Culture

Hosted by the University of the Arts
An International Fiber Symposium
March 6 - 8, 2008

Fiber, textiles and current ideas about materiality have a new place in the world of art and culture at the beginning of the 21st century. No longer is this expression considered an eccentric, peripheral or a quirky studio practice.

To the contrary; its rich and varied material base and palate of labor-intensive construction techniques, along with a passion for “things” being made by hand are now seen as “fair game” and are being appropriated everywhere by painters, sculptors, industrial designers, architects and artists of all media. Writer and cultural critic Lydia Matthews calls it “cannibalizing,” where (after modernism) the latest forms of avant-garde practice gravitate toward “all things critical and fresh, marginal and sub-cultural.”

On the other hand, for decades material artists who identify themselves with Fiber and Textile have been crossing all media boundaries utilizing a variety of strategies commonly used by painters and sculptors, with special interest in approaches involving installation and performance. Although many emerging artists continue their interest in object making, no longer is the focus on the formal issues of color, form, structure and beauty; rather there is much greater concern for making work reflecting a personal narrative or for expressing ideas through hand made objects that have some social, political or cultural implication. Subjectivity, gender, globalization, sustainability, history and memory, community, and technology versus the handmade are a regular part of the conversation.

The notion of “materiality” is being used here not only in regard to our use of new materials. Even further, it is a concept which reflects the heightened relationship artists have with materials as a means of expressing ideas through their profound empathy and greater need to connect with the physical (sensual) world. Against the backdrop of new technology and the virtual, the notion of “materiality” is more relevant now than ever in the history of art-making.

The Philadelphia Conference, hosted by the University of the Arts in March 2008, will address issues about the state of contemporary Fiber, Textiles and material studies, and interrogate, debate and consider the place of Fiber and Textiles as an expressive force at this time.