In medias res

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As contemporary artistic practice has become ever more polymorphous and multispatial, large scale exhibitions have accommodated a wider array of emerging nonmodern epistemologies, materialities and temporalities ‘in the middle’ (Latour and Porter 1993, 47). As a critical means of considering contemporary art’s homologous nonmodern, this paper refracts these two influential global exhibitions of contemporary art - dOCUMENTA 13 and Il Palazzo Encyclopedia - through the lens of Medievalisms Studies. Medievalisms Studies’ challenge to the ‘simplified binarization of premodern acts and modern identities’ (Fradenburg 1997, 213) invites deeper scrutiny of contemporary art’s knowledges, materialities and its chronopolitics.

Developing the medievalist analogies of the compendium and the relic, I focus on specific exempla presented within the curatorial frameworks of these two key biennale that offer a macrocosmic discourse on contemporary art’s developing relations with knowledges, materials and time. In unfolding anachronic materialist narratives, a nonmodern sensibility promised to liberate emerging art from the social constructivist paradigms that still dominate contemporary art. As a corollary of their nonmodern materialist epistemologies, the biennale that form my exempla also attempted to (dis)place the practices they curated through a polytemporality in which now-and-then and here-and-there are intertwined.


Fradenburg, L. O. (1997). "So That We May Speak of Them : Enjoying the Middle Ages " New Literary History, 28(2): 205-230.

Latour, B. and C. Porter (1993). We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)388-407
Number of pages20
Journalpostmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies
Issue number3
Early online date29 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
EventLeeds International Medieval Congress 2015 - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Jul 20159 Jul 2015


  • contemporary art
  • medievalisms
  • biennale
  • materialisms
  • nonmodern
  • anachronic
  • chronopolitics
  • transtime
  • premodern
  • medieval
  • temporality
  • alterity
  • biennaleogy

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