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09 Jun 2018 - 23 Sep 2018

Exhibition Restless Matter

Do stones have feelings?
Do tree branches have an inner world?
Can paint think?

The subject of Restless Matter, and the New Materialism-discourse it refers to, is connected to one of today’s most relevant debates about the future of our world: how will humanity be able to manage its devastating impact on our planet, in a world in which technology increasingly dominates social and economic relations? This question begs thinkers, scientists and artists to look into alternative scenarios for our relationship to matter and objects, and look beyond the horizon of human presence on earth.

The world of things

Within the New Materialism discours, the emphasis lies on an emancipated thinking of matter, and the world of things is not presented as inanimate and passive, but as an active, dynamic world where things can act and have freedom of choice. Referring to, among other things, the climate crisis and developments in mobile network technology and artificial intelligence, contemporary artists and thinkers emphasize the urgency of this emancipatory perspective – a reconsideration of the relationship between man and matter. The Cobra Museum believes that the specific CoBrA perspective on the – now ubiquitous – phenomenon of New Materialism can yield crucial new insights into this subject.


Detail Thierry Oussou, La Poesie en op de muur Antoni Tàpies_Terra sobre tela foto Peter Tijhuis

“Can we draw parallels between the attention to 'matter' among the postwar artists, and those of today?”


Resteless Matter shows recent projects by contemporary artists like Pauline Curnier Jardin (France), Egill Sæbjörnsson (Iceland), Wong Ping (Hong Kong), Nina Canell (Zweden), Thierry Oussou (Benin)  and Shana Moulton (United States) in dialogue with modern masterpieces by CoBrA artists such as Karel Appel, Asger Jorn and Constant and their post-war European avant-garde colleagues and important matter painters like, Jean Dubuffet (France), Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio (italy) and Antoni Tàpies (Spain), who were crucial in shaping the discourse surrounding materialism at the time. The works of these artists are generally characterised by their application of other materials then just paint on the canvas.


Egill Sæbjörnsson ,The Egg or the Hen, Us or Them, 2011


By using the work of CoBrA artists and their contemporaries as a lens to look at the present and vice versa, we aim to learn something about the changed role of material, matter and materialism in art. For both modern and contemporary artists, the subject of materialism holds creative and political meaning: it enables them to say something about the world around them, and the relationship between humans and their surroundings. Working with and through matter, these artists look to unleash unexpected creative potential.


From left to right: Karel Appel, Barbaric Nude 1957, Crying Crab 1954 and Child in flames with hoop 1961. Wong Ping Wong Ping's Fables 1 2018 and Asger Jorn Horned Beef 1961

Cavern of Anti-Matter

The exhibition will prominently feature Pinot-Gallizio’s installation ‘Cavern of Anti-Matter’, an immersive room-sized experimental painting installation the artist created after the formation of the Situationist International in 1957. The exhibition will include contemporary works that connect with New Materialist ideas, works that remind us – like Asger Jorn already did in both his texts and his art works – of the agency of matter, and of the (over-privileged) position of human beings.


Preparing the industrial painting of Pinot-Gallizio's Cavern of Anti-matter. 1958 Alba and 2018 Amstelveen.

The exhibition Restless Matter can be seen from June 9 until September 23 at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. Easy to reach from the centre of Amsterdam by bicycle or by public transport (Tram or Bus). Check the website for opening hours and how to get there.

The exhibition Restless Matter has been made possible by Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Fondation Dubuffet Paris, Archivio Gallizio, Turijn, Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten, Brussel, S.M.A.K., Gent, Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denemarken, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam e.v.a.

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