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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Arts in Society Theme groups

Art History & Visual Material Culture

The research of this group uniquely joins approaches in art and architectural history to open up diachronic perspectives on the objects of art and architecture, their particular agencies, and the networks they exist in. The members of this group study art works (from Italian Renaissance paintings to 20th century sculptures and contemporary video installations), buildings (from historic churches to modern skyscrapers) and cities (from Europe to South America). The materiality and style of the objects themselves are scrutinized, but also the underlying making and realisation processes, the significance and value attributed to them in the course of time, and the context in which the objects came into being, functioned and were experienced, used and received. The research group wants to contribute to the knowledge of material objects situated in time and space, from the fields of art history, architectural history, urban studies, cultural heritage, visual studies and religious studies. Additionally, the group hopes to open up discussions around the different practices and theories operating in the shared and sometimes hybrid spaces of art, architecture and urbanism.

Project showcase

An example of research within this theme group is the PhD project ‘(No) Strings Attached. The Dynamics of Freedom and Control in European Participatory Art in the 1960s’ by Annemarie Kok. The main objective of this research is to understand the dynamics of freedom and control in participatory art in Europe in the 1960s and, in relation to that, to examine the interaction between this art practice and a web of (surrounding) contextual factors. To achieve this objective, the research will focus on an analysis of (1) the artists’ motives to work with participation, (2) the form and degree of participation in the art practice of the 1960s and (3) the connections to the historical context, i.e. the social, political, artistic and intellectual setting in which the artists operated. Based on a contextual approach, the research aims to study how the use of participation in visual arts in the 1960s, and the related intentions and ideas concerning control and freedom, were affected by various socio-historical circumstances and shaped by the debates, beliefs and ideas prevalent in society at the time. The study focuses on the participatory visual art practice in Europe in the 1960s. The core of the research consists of seven case studies concerning seven participatory works by different artists who lived and worked in Europe at the time, and have in common being exhibited at the fifth documenta in Kassel in 1972.


Last modified:19 October 2020 09.15 a.m.