Arts, Media and Culture
Director: Prof. Emilie Sitzia
The aim of the Arts, Media, and Culture (AMC) program is to analyse the dynamics of cultural change by studying how developments in the arts and the media respond to socio-cultural and political changes and how, vice versa, cultural artifacts and practices can shape social and political culture. AMC researchers study the whole spectrum of high-brow, middle-brow, and low-brow culture, ranging from novels to installation and performance art, from political essays to public monuments, and from online communities to hacking spaces. What unites these inquiries is a focus on the practices in which cultural artifacts are produced, distributed, and received. AMC research interprets the meanings of cultural objects as “texts,” but increasingly includes a focus on their sites of production, reception, and/or co-creation, e.g., classrooms and factories where language practices are a means of in- and exclusion, websites where candidate parents present themselves to mothers of potential adoptees, museum storage rooms where installations are conserved, the nursing homes where people who live with dementia become co-creators in participatory arts activities, and the virtual communities where citizens share letters from the past. This emphasis on situated practices means that we are interested in the social and historical but also in the material and bodily constituents of culture-in-the-making.
Impression from our yearly Writing Retreat at Alden Biesen, Belgium
Theoretically, AMC scholarship follows new developments in critical theory, ethics, and digital and environmental humanities. AMC research relates to paradigms such as post-humanism and new materialism that may transform the humanities beyond its anthropocentric foundations. In addition, digital developments enable us to explore new forms of data collection, analysis, and presentation as well as new ways of engagement with audiences. The topics that we study and the questions that we ask have a strong social dimension. We are committed to engaged scholarly practices that combine conventional valorization activities (e.g., exhibitions, toolkits, and installations) with innovative co-creative practices that involve societal stakeholders in the development and production of knowledge (see our edited volume Engaged Humanities: Rethinking Art, Culture, and Public Life, forthcoming). Many of our projects have an ethical and normative component and several AMC scholars identify as activist-scholars. Methodologically, research projects within AMC often combine approaches from the humanities and social sciences, for instance critical discourse analysis, philosophical reflection, and close reading with ethnographic field work including interventions, field observations, and interviews.
AMC scholarship responds to the challenges that come with the following four topics. These topics are dynamic, and most scholars identify with at least two: inclusive societies, digital transformations, living histories, and engaging narratives.
AMC research typically approaches mechanisms of exclusion from a gender and diversity studies perspective and highlights intersections of social identities, such as gender, sexuality, religion, age, disability, ethnicity, and nationality. The development of more inclusive societies is explicitly understood in terms of moving beyond an anthropocentric paradigm and includes the human-environment relation. We focus specifically on how the arts, new technologies, and language practices function as vectors of social change in multiple settings, such as playgrounds, factories (including cattle farms), and care facilities.
In the picture
- ZonMW-project “Make-Belief Matters: The Moral Role Things Play in Dementia Care” (Ruud Hendriks, Ike Kamphof, & Tsjalling Swierstra): this research focuses on how good, inclusive, and person-sustaining care is done in assemblages of people and new technologies in dementia care settings
- van den Hengel, L. (2017). Sexecologies. In S. Alaimo (Ed.), Gender: Matter (pp. 329–44). (Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Gender). Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.
- Sound installation “Mia” (Jolien Makkinga, Léonie Cornips, & Stichting Laudio): this sound installation evokes the role of dialect in developing a sense of belonging in a nursing home context
Knowledge of the material and immaterial traces of the past in the present can help us tackle present and future societal challenges. Living histories refers to the analysis of how representations of history are produced and contested in the public domain. AMC research contributes to making history available and relevant today by focusing on issues related to heritage formation and conservation. We have special expertise in the theory and ethics of the conservation of contemporary art, the role of monuments and buildings in memorial practices, cultural landscapes as heritage, and cultural education through participation.
In the picture
- Marie Curie Innovative Training Network “New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art” (Renée van de Vall, Vivian van Saaze, et al.)
- Sitzia, E. (2018). The ignorant art museum: Beyond meaning-making. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 37(1), 73-87.
- Ernsten, C., Shepherd, N., & Visser, D-J. (Eds.) (2018). The walking seminar: Embodied research in emergent Anthropocene landscapes. Amsterdam: ON AIR, Amsterdam University of Arts.
- de Jong, J., & Vierenhalm, F. (2016). Kwaliteit en effecten van cultuureducatie in het basisonderwijs. Deel 1 van het meta-onderzoek naar het programma Cultuureducatie met Kwaliteit in Limburg in opdracht van SIEN. Maastricht University.
In relation to the question how the rise of the digital transforms cultural practices, AMC scholarship concentrates on the transformation of scholarly practice itself and the way knowledge is produced. We study and develop digital tools that support our research, use them to communicate with audiences and turn them from consumers to knowledge producers. In addition, we examine how people outside of academia acquire digital skills and to what end, as well as how the arts speak to experiences and understandings of digital transformations. We have a special interest in how the intersections of the physical and digital (“phygital”) contribute to the development of cultural literacy.
In the picture
- Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (MCIF) “Hacking your way to IT expertise” (Annika Richterich): project on how members of hacker and maker spaces acquire digital skills and what the relation is between their interventions and civic engagement
- ERASMUS+ strategic partnership #dariah-Teach (Susan Schreibman, Costas Papadopoulos, et al.): platform and test modules for open-source multilingual teaching materials for the digital arts and humanities
- Papadopoulos, C., & Reilly, P. (2019). The digital humanist: Contested status within contesting futures. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.
In a rapid changing landscape of narrative credibility (cf. “post truth”), form (cf. social media), duration, and impact, (cf. “surface” versus “deep” attention), the engagement with various types of narratives takes on a new urgency. We respond to this challenge by studying how narratives across media intervene in contemporary societal issues, such as climate change, population aging, and post-coloniality, and how we can re-invent approaches to reading to deepen our understanding of the different uses of narrative. In addition, we focus on how people rely on narrative scripts in practices of self-fashioning.
In the picture
- NWO Veni-project “From Minimalist Forms to Post-Growth Economies? Advancing a Critical Formalist Perspective” (Miriam Meissner): this study explores the potential of minimalist initiatives in promoting post-growth values and practices through the innovation of everyday organizing patterns
- “Living Like an Artist” (Aagje Swinnen & Van Eyck Mirror): a societal project on how the life experiences of older professional artists resist the master narrative of successful aging in times of the gerontologization and commodification of creativity
- Wesseling, E., & Dane, J. (2018). Are “the Natives” educable? Dutch schoolchildren learn ethical colonial policy (1890–1910). Journal of Educational Media, Memory and Society, 10(1), 28–44.