• Art History Cold Cases: Art production in the factory

    SESSION B: Historias divergentes
    Day 1. Thursday, 27th October.
    18:00 – 20:30
    Venue: CCCB: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

    This paper brings into question the context where artistic production related to industrial history may enter art official narratives. Drawing on the examples of the Voltron sculpture series by David Smith (1962); Yvonne Rainer’s performance Carriage Discreteness (1966) and Stuart Brisely’s work at the Hille Fellowship Poly Wheel factory (1970), I will propose that observing the production of artworks within industrial environments implies a twofold commitment for art history. On the one hand, investigating artworks relying on industrial materials and production modes calls for the analysis of the “concrete and direct evidence” that materials provide (Didi-Hubermann 2015; Rubio 2012). On the other, they invite for consideration of informal archives and “suspect evidence” related to the tacit knowledge of production, subjective self-documentation, and oral history (Rosnow & Fine 1976).

    In 1963, Eugenio Battisti suggested that in order to respond to “new art materials”, art history should accept the impossibility to compile comprehensive chronologies and embrace the necessity to “drill” around the subject of research in a non-linear fashion (Battisti 2001). Battisti’s approach points out at another challenge related to art production that consciously adopt industrial modes and materials, i.e. a temporality that is jointly phrased through historiographic methodologies and the materiality of the artwork itself.

    Seen in this perspective, artists’ production in the context of industrial culture and workers’ “pérruques” executed as a form of self-managed time both contribute another point of view on how the inscription within the realm of high and low culture is done in art history. In a time when contemporary artistic and curatorial practices show a renewed interest in “outsiders” artefacts, the different work models and modes adopted by the proposed case-studies enable to read potential art historical narratives through the lens of working class studies and the contemporary material turn.

    Federica Martini
    Swiss Institute, Rome

    Federica Martini (PhD) is an art historian and curator. She was a member of the Curatorial Departments of the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Musée Jenisch Vevey and Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts/Lausanne.
    Since 2009, Martini has been head of the Master programme MAPS at the ECAV. She is currently a fellow at the Swiss Institute in Rome. Her publications include: Vedi alla voce: traversare (in press, 2016); Tourists Like Us: Critical Tourism and Contemporary Art (with V. Mickelkevicius, 2013); Pavilions/Art in Architecture (with R. Ireland, 2013); Just Another Exhibition: Stories and Politics of Biennials (with V. Martini, 2011).


Department of Art History
Universitat de Barcelona
c/ Montalegre 6-8.
08001 Barcelona

Call for Papers
Organizing Committee

The images for the Art and Speculative Futures conferences are generously provided by artist Regina de Miguel from her video Una Historia Nunca Contada desde Abajo (2016).