Towards the Paradigm of Material Activity in the Plastic Arts

Dissertation at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (GER)



Materials are active. They do something. Materials are in constant exchange with their environment with which they act. They can transform themselves and other materials. Thus, the Plastic Arts have to face the fact that materials are not just passive or mere recipients of formal ideas conceived by humans. By acknowledging material acitivities, the arts’ repertoire can be extended significantly. This also leads to more complex ways of creation, participation and reception.

This dissertation develops the theoretical foundations for a paradigm of material activities in the Plastic Arts grounded in intense personal art practice. It investigates the effects on thinking, imagining and acting with active materials through art. The result is a conceptual toolbox for artistic production and reception. In the three main parts, the dissertation discusses contemporary conceptions of materials and stuff, explores the exchange between imagination and material environment, and develops guidelines for ways in which material components become and stay active. The conducted investigations concern themselves both with concrete material activities and with phenomena emerging from the interplay between stuff and imagination. Numerous examples help with navigating the complex layers of materiality, while new ways of working like “conversation” or the “mangle of artistic practice” support approaching materials as partners.


Simplified table of contents

1 Introduction
2 Matter/Material in becoming
3 Imagination and the material world
4 The Paradigm of material activity in the plastic arts
5 Conclusion


Zum Paradigma materieller Aktivität in den Plastischen Künsten
Schriftenreihe: Dissertationen der Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM DISS 8)

Date: 2017
337 pages
num. color figs.
Language: German