The Material Collective formed in November 2010 at the first biennial meeting of the BABEL working group in Austin, Texas. Several of us participated in Maggie Williams’ session on Transparent Things, and all of us who were there in Austin reveled in the excitement that came from our initial conversations about life and work.
In the Transparent Things session, several of us presented work that explored personal experiences we’ve had with our objects of study or how to expand what we do when we do Art History. The session generated such an exhilarating response that we prolonged the conversation over lunch, and began to talk about ways to provoke real change in the field.
In Austin, our collective identity was formed. What drew us to each other? A shared vision for working together to explore new ideas. A shared desire to reveal the natural connections between our personal stories and our academic work as medievalists. A shared frustration with the sometimes static culture of Art History.
Over beers at Kalamazoo the following May, we enlarged our circle and began to write the Manifesto. We performed the manifesto in BABEL’s “Burn After Reading: Miniature Manifestos for a Future Medieval Studies” session.
Collective members also organized the Active Objects sessions for the International Center of Medieval Art at Kalamazoo. The Collective relished the packed room and, most of all, the thoughtful conversation that came after the presentations.
We look forward to creating more conversations through more conference sessions, including our upcoming one on the Staffordshire Hoard at the second BABEL meeting this September in Boston.
So say we all!