From Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art


Edited by Petra Lange-Berndt

Essays consider recent artistic and critical approaches to materiality, focusing on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes.





Essays consider recent artistic and critical approaches to materiality, focusing on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes.

Materiality has reappeared as a highly contested topic in recent art. Modernist criticism tended to privilege form over matter—considering material as the essentialized basis of medium specificity—and technically based approaches in art history reinforced connoisseurship through the science of artistic materials. But in order to engage critically with the meaning, for example, of hair in David Hammons's installations, milk in the work of Dieter Roth, or latex in the sculptures of Eva Hesse, we need a very different set of methodological tools.

This anthology focuses on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes, entangling their audience in a web of connections. It investigates the role of materiality in art that attempts to expand notions of time, space, process, or participation. And it looks at the ways in which materials obstruct, disrupt, or interfere with social norms, emerging as impure formations and messy, unstable substances. It reexamines the notion of “dematerialization”; addresses materialist critiques of artistic production; surveys relationships between matter and bodies, from the hierarchies of gender to the abject and phobic; explores the vitality of substances; and addresses the concepts of intermateriality and transmateriality emerging in the hybrid zones of digital experimentation.

Artists surveyed include Georges Adéagbo, Carl Andre, Janine Antoni, Amy Balkin, Artur Barrio, Helen Chadwick, Mel Chin, Mark Dion, Jimmie Durham, Tessa Farmer, Chohreh Feyzdjou, Romuald Hazoumè, Pierre Huyghe, Ilya Kabakov, Mike Kelley, Anthony McCall, Teresa Margolles, Robert Morris, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Tino Sehgal, Shozo Shimamoto, Santiago Sierra, Robert Smithson, Simon Starling, Paul Thek, Paul Vanouse, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Kara Walker

Writers include Joseph D. Amato, Karen Barad, Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz, Georges Didi-Huberman, Natasha Eaton, Jens Hauser, Dieter Hoffmann-Axthelm, Tim Ingold, Wolfgang Kemp, Julia Kristeva, Esther Leslie, Jean-François Lyotard, Dietmar Rübel, Monika Wagner, Gillian Whiteley


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262528092 240 pp. | 5.75 in x 8.25 in

Not for sale in Europe or the UK.


Petra Lange-Berndt

Petra Lange-Berndt is Chair of Modern and Contemporary art in the Art History Department at the University of Hamburg and a leading researcher in the field of material studies in art history. She is coeditor, with Dietmar Rübel, of Sigmar Polke: We Petty Bourgeois! Contemporaries and Comrades, the 1970s.


  • Immersing oneself in this rich and diverse collection of short reflections on materiality is an incredibly pleasurable and rewarding experience.

    Diana Coole

    Professor of Political and Social Theory, Birkbeck, University of London

  • What makes Petra Lange-Berndt's new book so relevant in the conversation about art's place within material culture is how it makes unmistakably clear that the meaning of the term Materiality is not bound to our discussion around objects, artefacts or commodities alone but connected to far-reaching philosophical concepts and models. The book takes the reader from examinations of terms such as dematerialization and immateriality in the digital world to the hybrid context of inter- and transmateriality. What Materiality ultimately proposes is that we learn (again) to see material, that we listen to matter and that we let the substances that art is made of communicate their own agency.

    Jens Hoffmann

    Director, The Jewish Museum, New York

  • In Materiality Lange-Berndt has compiled a palimpsest of comment on waxiness, stickiness, smoothness and colour; of wood, mud, stone and sugar. Extracts from both theorists and artists combine to remind us of the elemental ways in which materials have formed art and art practice. A fundamental text that expands our understanding of materiality, from the multiple perspectives of global art practice and critical theory.

    Haidy Geismar

    Reader in Anthropology, University College London

  • Why matter matters is an important matter as feminist philosopher and scientist Karen Barad writes. And it matters what matters we use to think other matters with, as Donna Haraway reminds us. I welcome this new book about materiality. It explores questions of embodiment in our age of vituality, and that is no small matter.

    Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

    International curator and art historian