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Art, Nature and Technology

Maria Fabricius Hansen
Department of Art History, Aarhus University, Denmark

Jacob Wamberg
Department of Art History, Aarhus University, Denmark

In the thematic triad suggested in the title, art and technology represent two aspects of what was originally, in antiquity and the Middle Ages, one common field constituted by all humanly manufactured objects and their basic methods, in Greek designated techné, in Latin ars. By using the materials of nature, reflecting its forms and imitating its creative processes, this common field was, at the same time, seen as intimately connected to nature. With the development of modernity this pre-modern field was, however, split into art (the artistic) and technology (the technical), a division which simultaneously established a distance to a – now passive – nature.

Is the modern split of the three areas still tenable? Is it in a process of being sharpened further? Or may new crossovers be identified? With our session we seek to re-evaluate the intersections between art, nature, and technology. We do not expect to reach some kind of conclusion concerning the connections between or severance of the three areas. But we do hope to create a forum of discussion with ample historical perspectives, where the contributors present different points of view based on their own specialist, historic knowledge. The strength of the session shall be its interdisciplinarity (pertaining to e.g. cultural history, art theory, aesthetics, history of ideas and attitudes, history of science, iconology), and we welcome papers that will address crucial periods within the overall thematic field, such as the late medieval/Renaissance period, the enlightenment/romantic era, and the 20th and 21st centuries.