Matthew Bowman

United Kingdom (residence) °1978

I lecture in contextual studies at Colchester School of Art, teaching art and photography history and theory to BA (hons) photography students. I also teach part time in the School of Philosophy at the University of Essex. Since 2008, I have published  numerous essays including “The New Critical Historians of Art?” in James Elkins and Michael Newman (eds.), The State of Art Criticism (Routledge, 2008) and “Rosalind Krauss” in Mark Durden (ed.), Fifty Key Writers on Photography (Routledge, 2013). An extended essay on Martin Heidegger’s notion of de-distancing and its value for art historiography, titled “Shapes of Time: Melancholia, Anachronism, and De-Distancing,” has just been published in Amanda Boetzkes and Aron Vinegar eds., Heidegger and the Work of Art History (Ashgate, 2014), and  “For a Concept of Immaterial Indestructibility” in Camila Maroja and Caroline Menzies (eds.) The Permanence of the Transient (Cambridge Scholars, 2014). 


Research interests

Postwar art and criticism (especially North American art and criticism—minimalism, conceptualism, postmodernism). The origins and formation of the discipline of art history. Continental philosophy and aesthetics. Theories of temporality and historicity. The relationship between art-critical writing and art practice—especially art-critical writing by artists. Theories of interpretation and hermeneutics. Authenticity and collectivity in post-Fordist society. The structure and economics of the contemporary art market. Histories and theories of photography. Weimar and postwar German art.


Exposition: Towards a Non-Identity Art (01/01/2013) by Rory Harron
Matthew Bowman 18/12/2013 at 17:29

This essay addresses the continued and largely dominant division of the artworld into producers and consumers in the face of practices and theories that have sought to efface or problematize that very division. In that respect, the themes it examines are not only very much embedded within contemporary practice—as in, for example, Relational Aesthetics and its attendant critiques—but also dovetails with significant problems and conditions of art as such. While calling for an exodus from the traditional author-led conceptions of art and suggests that collaborative practices have, in general, been insufficient in breaking down the barriers between artist and audience. The overall aim of the essay is generate this non-identity thinking as a means for constructing a more egalitarian relationship between artist and audience, a relationship where these ascribed roles—”artist” and “audience”—begin to blur and a more radically democratic politics can be envisaged.


The notion of non-identity that animates this essay is introduced early on through reference to Duchamp’s alter-ego Rrose Selavy, however it is not defined until later on and so the initial stakes are not immediately clear. In essence, Adorno’s concept of “non-identity” is reformatted in this essay in order to think about the collective potential of art—here the author’s submission goes beyond Adorno per se and uses non-identity in a manner that arguably breaks from Adorno’s own intentions. While some might contend that this amounts to a misapplication of non-identity, my feeling is that the author’s general approach allows for new insights into this concept and another way of thinking politics and collectivity in art practice. However, there is also a strategic element to the category of non-identity, as is evinced by the author’s dialectical scepticism towards it, and there is a danger that the argument may undercut itself, collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. There is also a risk, perhaps, that non-identity or a step towards in that direction might be tantamount to or mirror the forms of alienation and de-identification in everyday life in consumer culture (Warhol worked this problematic in a fairly comprehensive manner, it might be contended and so might be a key example here). Finally, it might be worth exploring further how non-identity in art can be mapped onto notions of collectivity and the general intellect—both of which, at face value, often imply that they are dependent on forms of identification between individuals in order to produce collective formations. It would be intriguing to see how this research continues to explore and negotiate these possibilities.

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