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Exogenesis : production of boundary-objects in european art from 1500 – EXOGENÈSES

Boundary Objects in European art from the Renaissance to the present days

At the crossroad of interconnected history, cultural transfers and material culture, the project proposes to establish the concept of «boundary objects,« that is to say, objects in which the contact with objects from the antipodes continue the link between us and the Other from the 16th century up today. Through the study of the use of such objects, including the production of «boundary spaces«, the story of the construction of the European identity can be specified.

How does exogeneous produce endogeneous : an investigation

The wide spatio-temporal context of the Program is required by the desire to create a story without a priori of the reception and perception of non-European objects based on the mutability of objects in the context of the recontextualization. The project requires that the geographical and chronological fields are covered progressively as and when the organization of workshops, the ethnographic investigation of current artistic practices of non-European objects as well as the progress of the photographic survey.<br />Understand from the current situation of objects, the long term production of meaning by the context is not resolved in the only distinction between the museum and not museum contexts. This objective requires that the survey combines these settings before the final stage, especially in the organization of the workshops.<br />At the societal level, the expected benefits are related to the positive recognition of the Other in the constitution of European society for a long time and until today, that actually allow the compilation and dissemination of the concept of “boundary object” that is, the awareness that identity is also based in otherness can be achieved through such a concept and expanded to a larger public use.<br />

The Exogensesis Program examines “boundary objects” and “boundary spaces” in and out museal context to highlight the contribution of other cultures in the construction of modern European consciousness, proceeding by successive foci through periodic workshops themes, objects, or different types of objects in each stage. Workshops are filmed to ensure the ongoing analysis of the research.
The ethnographic survey is to collect and analyze speech that European contemporary artists take on the incorporation in their works of materials, objects or technical know-how from outside Europe. It is based on individual interviews with renowned designers of unequal and claiming types or (gross contemporary art, art, unique art, etc.). The aim is to uncover the reasons for their taste for what comes from elsewhere and how exogenous product endogenous.
The counting of photographic collections, already begun through magazines and photographic agencies funds, is to understand the profound changes in materials use in the European context from the nineteenth century, of objects from non-Western territories. If the concrete practices of editing objects tend to decrease at this time in favor of an aesthetic authenticity, tinged with nostalgia for a largely mythical past, however these “pure” or «authentic« objects take place in hybrid spaces (rooms collectors and museum spaces) which are themselves experiences of the boundary, the «boundary spaces« will be systematically investigated, taking into account the nature of the photographic gaze questioned such spaces. Ultimately, will result an exhibition on collectors interiors of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. The first workshop of the Program dedicated to “Edouard Bonie Cabinet« in Bordeaux, has been both a case study and the mother cell in this investigation.

In the general public, the use of the concept of boundary object understood in the sense explained here will be a significant step forward. From the first two workshops, the welcome received in museums and raised echo confirmed this expectation. In the current history of globalization, the positive aspect of the inclusion of the Other that produces the use of this concept is emphasized as a key to understanding that could be developed profitably in the European societal context.

The application of the concept of “boundary objects” in the field of artistic production in Europe for a long time and until today has found validated by the early months of the Programme. The horizon of the production of a new concept in Humanities-type «lieux de mémoire« - is now a viable prospect.
The first months of the investigation that led to further define the concept of “boundary objects” from revealing case of contact between Us and the Others encouraged to persevere in the path chosen: the key input in the fields study considered-focus-as opposed to the corpus while proving to operational. In addition, the case of Bordeaux «house- museum« committed to pursuing the possibility of expanding the concept of “boundary objects” in the “boundary spaces” as a complementary field program. The beginnings of ethnographic investigation with contemporary European artists using objects from outside Europe show the validity of the concept while requiring the state given the current context of globalization ofart.
Confirming these results, initially envisaged as a virtual seminar has evolved into real seminar program team organizes, indeed, from the academic year 2013-2014 a seminar at EHESS on the same title as the Program which will give it greater visibility in the scientific world. Another seminar also gave the EHESS in 2013-2014 will present research from the ethnographic survey conducted among contemporary European artists. In both cases, the workshops as well as the investigations are the basis
of the reflections .

The Exogenesis Blog online on can disseminate knowledge of the Program, reporting retrospectively its progress and ensuring electronic eve of ongoing work in the field. It is open from the first month of the Program.
The papers presented during the inaugural workshop, bringing together French and foreign researchers involved in the Program, have clarified the concept of “boundary objects” from the in situ study of the little-known case of house-museum established in Bordeaux by Bonie, in the late 19th century, for its non-European objects. The papers presented at the second workshop at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, were preceded by a preparatory meeting on site, followed by the provision of a German colleague invited. Centered on the issue of non-European objects mounted in the 18th century, the second workshop focused on some very specific cases of decorative art or use objects.
The database has been tested from the particular case of a «boundary space« («House-Museum« Bonie), understood as «boundary object«. The photographic survey has already started on this topic (see above).
These works are the basis of the scientific production forecast including the collection of monographs on a “boundary object”, a type of “boundary objects” or “boundary spaces”. Ethnographic investigation of contemporary artistic practices of about ten artists whose interviews are being transcribed helped to clarify the book «The Passion of The Other«.

At the crossroads of interconnected history, of cultural transfers and of material culture, the scheme Exogenesis proposes to establish the concept of "boundary objects" as objects born to exogenesis, that is to say, the contact with materials, techniques, shapes, skills, or items coming from the antipodes. Since the 16th century, from which era the cognizance of four separate continents has been entrenched, such objects have also been done to perpetuate the link binding Us to the Others (Todorov T., 1989). If the focus on the history of objects is commonplace in the historiography of art, the approach using the most recent anthropological methods relative to objects, conceived as concentrators of meaning, and applying those methods to the study of Europe understood as a meeting ground, is relatively novel. Indeed, using this approach, the focus on "boundary objects" will translate into the analysis of metabolic phenomena. More precisely, studying the usage of “boundary objects” permits to address the history of the construction of the European identity through dialogue with the Others. In such a way, the history of art will itself be driven towards its boundaries.

The object as a conveyor is still insufficiently studied as such in the interconnected history of economics, politics or sociology, although it is at times found as an ingredient of historical or artistic speech. A fortiori, the object engendered by a match with an extra-European item has rarely been a point of focus. The scheme proposes to bare remedy to this by pointing to the precise moment when the "exogenous" makes the "endogenous". The making of the meaning of objects by the surrounding context as well as the intrinsic ambivalence of objects (Jeudy-Ballini M.-B. Derlon 2008) are key issues of the scheme. Whatever the surrounding context, nature or provenance, the various terms of production of “boundary objects” will be analysed.

"The boundary object" will be regarded as a hub of complex relations which will be analysed from a nexus of selected cases. A paradigmatic "boundary object", the nautilus of the South Pacific Seas mounted by German silversmiths in the late sixteenth century, has been recently described as a "relic holder of a new type” (du Crest S., 2009). Around these particularly meaningful "boundary objects", the status of objects can be addressed effectively so as to further lead the history of art into a more thorough understanding of all its objects.

These objects manufactured in Europe, born in the European consciousness, can be understood only in the European context. They do not amount to interbreeding since they have been founders of a European identity they still help build. Taste, imitation, stimulation, hybridisation are essential ingredients of the process of acculturation (Labrusse R., 2011). Based on the analysis of the contextualization, the project proposes to follow the reasons and issues of the production of the « boundary objects » in which the track of their originary exogenesis is still visible. Following this process in the design and making, "boundary objects" have become, and still are, objects of Europe. The relation to the Other, with an interplay of fascination and repulsion, is now made conspicuous by these objects. This process of acculturation generates such "boundary objects" with their shapes. Exogenesis proposes to elicit the related causes and consequences.

Project coordination

Sabine DU CREST (Histoire de l'Art, Centre François- Georges Pariset) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


HAR / P10 Histoire de l'Art et des Représentations
LAS/CdF-EHSS-CNRS Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale
HdA-CFGP / Bx3 Histoire de l'Art, Centre François- Georges Pariset

Help of the ANR 260,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2012 - 36 Months

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