Inaugural lecture – Katja Kwastek - Post-digital art history

Inaugural lecture by Prof. dr. Katja Kwastek, professor of Modern and Contemporary art at VU University Amsterdam


June 18, 2014. 15.45 hrs. at the Aula of the VU University, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam


Katja Kwastek – Post-digital art history

In 1998, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT’s Media Lab, announced the end of the digital revolution. It was his predilection that digital technologies would become so commonplace and ubiquitous that they would be taken for granted like air and water. This, as we have seen, did not turn out to be entirely true. At present our information society is still facing rapid and fundamental changes. Negroponte did, however, rightly foresee the increasing ubiquity of digital technologies. As of today, these technologies even have exerted vital impact on the material world, and our own bodily presence therein. To describe this situation, we use the notion of the post-digital.

In her inaugural lecture as professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the VU University Amsterdam, Katja Kwastek will argue that art plays a seminal role in highlighting and critically reflecting these developments. In creatively playing with digital technology and its effects on our behavior, our environment, and society at large, artists force us to critically engage with the technological systems that increasingly shape our lives. A post-digital art history must undertake the task of analyzing, mediating, and contextualizing such art. Set against the long history of art, visual culture, and human creativity, this post-digital art history can also open up new perspectives on art of the past.

Furthermore, a post-digital perspective can help to clarify what is at stake for the so-called ‘digital humanities’. Beyond merely making use of digital tools, the digital humanities should seek to actively collaborate in establishing the links between material and digital culture, the historical object and the database, and the individual artistic statement and its statistical prevalence.