New Materialisms IV – Movement, Aesthetics, Ontology

Next week I will be taking part in the fourth New Materialisms conference held in Turku, Finland. The session description as well as the other papers in our panel session look very interesting. Here’s the panel description and my paper abstract.


Chairs: Varpu Rantala & Phaedra Shanbaum

The ability to articulating our beings and becomings with the nonhuman world (the material, the human, the technological, the informational), brings forth questions around how the very materiality of research practices and artistic processes can be recognized, conceptualized and theorized. This workshop will interrogate how we can think through and about these practices and recognize their after-effects. It will focus on theories and processes that enable new ways of reflecting the entanglement of material and the informational in both art and research, and explores these in respect to unexpectedness that may guide our thinking into new directions – as “lifeness” (Zylinska & Kember 2012) that enables the emergence of the forms of new thoughts, and as generation of unprecedented connections and events. The presentations explore such themes as abductive reasoning and materiality; the feeling patterns based on repetition, and the elements of unexpected and coincidental in the very practices of archaeology, image research, filmmaking and new media art works.


Marko Marila
University of Helsinki

Archaeology has, together with the rest of the humanities, been permeated by the material turn. During the recent decade forms of new realism, new materialism, and object-oriented ontology have changed the way archaeologists conceive human-nonhuman relationships in the past as well as in the present. OOO and other flat ontologies have provided viable approaches to understanding synchronic material relations, but there is room for more theorizing about the long term, which has, after all, been at the focus of archaeology since its birth.

In an attempt to provide a more diachronically oriented and realist archaeological philosophy, I turn to the pragmatism of Charles Peirce (1839–1914) and his notions of synechism (continuity) and tychism (absolute chance). According to Peirce, the universe is essentially continuous, but despite becoming more law-like, produces “infinitesimal departures from law continually, and great ones with infinite infrequency”. Peirce’s metaphysics is an interesting combination of idealism, realism, and materialism. As such, it also provides tools for dealing with the distinction between ontology and epistemology, which should not be treated as “distinct concerns” (Barad 2007). Following this line of thinking, I will attempt a reconciliation between “mind and matter”. My claim is that, although the universe is continuous and law-like, new ideas emerge by occurrences of absolute chance. Proposing an abductivist onto-epistemology, I take the concept of abduction to be central in conceptualizing the continuous and evolutionary relationship between matter and mind.

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