Does material matter?
What makes a material matter?
One might ask, do we ascribe an intrinsic quality to a material or is the immanent an existing fact? Is the material a projection surface for the viewer?
I’ve argued that human hair is not just any material. What makes it special is that it is corporal and as such I’d say that it does have an impact on us, us being bodies and relating to our surroundings as that.
In creative practice the subject can be viewed as a passageway where there is a struggle between conflicting tendencies or drives in response to external stimuli and matter as it is felt.
There are differences between materiality and matter even though these concepts can be found in relation to the same object, the same material. One fundamental precondition for human hair to be perceived as material is that it is anonymous. The bundles of hair that lies in my cupboards are gathered from several persons, cleansed, sorted in length and color. No names, no origins, sold by weight. But still, its corporal albeit detached from its original body.
What’s in a name….
When connected to a name or a portrait it is difficult to see a strand of hair or a braid as mere material. It has undergone a different transformation and entered the realm of remembrance’s or maybe remains and relics. A reminder of life or relation that’s lost? A strand of hair, a piece of a nail, a voodoo charm…
I remember seeing a lock of Napoleons hair at a museum. To me it was quite different from the familiar hat next to it.
Do we need to mirror ourselves in in an object to establish the kind of relation that enables narratives to emerge? Material as a transporter into the depths of experiences and prior knowledge.
[ …] it may be argued that the art is a material practice, and that materiality of matter lies at the core of creative practice.
Would it be an unreasonable assumption to say that what could be perceived as the immanent is not something internal, but something that occurs and thrives from an external encounter? The narrative is manifold and evoked in the encounters, hence it is recreated every time. No matter how explicit, and clear I’ve used the codes for my narrative, it is always in dialogue with the other. The other that uses its own knowledge and experiences to interpret and decode what is perceived.
In the book Carnal Knowledge. Towards a New Materialism, one of the editors Barbara Bolt quotes Andrew Poe and Martin Heidegger when talking of the humans as an active creator in art encounters, where matter becomes the “substrate and field for the artist’s formative actions”. Poe emphasizes a view on art that sees humans as the active creator in the creation of things, and active creator is to be understood in the broadest of the concept. I understand that in this context as equal to the concept “encounter”. Poe question the “form-matter synthesis” and refers to Heidegger that has talked about the dominance and dangers of the form-matter conception.
“If form is corelated with the rational and matter with the irrational, if the rational is taken to be the logical and the irrational the alogical; if in addition the subject-object relation is coupled with the conceptual pair form-matter; then representation has at its command a conceptual machinery that nothing is capable of withstanding.”
Bolt continues by saying: In short, Heidegger’s re-thinking and re-interpretation of causality in the form-matter synthesis shifts our understanding of the concept. “In sum, art is a co-collaboration, not a form-matter synthesis and matter as much as the human has responsibility for the emergence of art. In other words matter has agency.”
Matter has agency…
 Barnett, Estelle & Bolt, Barbara (ed.), Carnal Knowledge. Towards a ‘New Materialism’ through the Arts, NY 2013, p 65