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IN2PAST Seminar

materia: Towards a Critical Lexicon of Materiality in the Arts and Heritage



02:00 - 04:00 pm


Although matter and materiality are intrinsic to the arts and heritage fields, the terms underpinning discourse and practice around its manifestations are arguably more contested than ever. Negotiating terms and their boundaries becomes an essential task when redefining materialities and their past, present, and future. Understanding what matters in material culture and the various disciplines underpinning its study will help us understand decision-making processes regarding the conservation, historicisation, and overall transmission of art and heritage practices.

This seed project aims to set the basis for creating a critical lexicon addressing the diverse ways in which materiality is performed within the arts and heritage fields, and, specifically, in museum practice. It draws on existing efforts to interrogate how we understand matter and knowledge (specifically through posthumanism) to expand the idea of materiality in itself by creating a lexicon. Due to their intrinsic relationship with language (and, therefore, culture and practice), lexicons have particular potential to emerge as critical tools to rehearse forms of situated practice.


Hélia Marçal (IHC – NOVA FCSH / UCL)
Daniela Salazar (IHA – NOVA FCSH)
Rui Lopes (IHC – NOVA FCSH)
Leonel Alegre (HERCULES – Universidade de Évora)


Sónia Vespeira de Almeida (CRIA – NOVA FCSH)




T-shirt usada na 11ª Marxa Cabral (Cabo Verde, 2023), cedida por Miguel Cardina à exposição "Amílcar Cabral" (Palácio Baldaya, Março-Junho 2023).

IMAGE T-shirt used at the 11th Marxa Cabral, Cape Verde, 2023, donated by Miguel Cardina to the “Amílcar Cabral” exhibition (Palácio Baldaya, March-June 2023). © Diana Barbosa

The project will be developed in three stages: (1) identification of challenges current terms pose to a posthuman ideal of arts and heritage, (2) identification of critical terms, (3) writing up of entries for 12 terms. Relevant challenges will include the current climate emergency, social erasures of racialised groups, and forms of capitalist extractivism. Applicable terms will be identified through three collaborative laboratories that will bring together team members and invited contributors. In these Collaborative Laboratories (CL) context, the project will reach out to scholars and practitioners from critical race and decolonial theory, philosophy of science, and ecofeminism to address issues of misrecognition and extractivism, alternative epistemologies, and climate emergency, respectively. Specifically, we will invite participants from the areas of (CL1) performing arts and critical race and decolonial theory, (CL2) the visual arts and philosophy of science, and (CL3) historiographical practices and ecofeminism.