Sektion 9: Exzentrische Abstraktion, Anti-Form, Post-Minimalismus, informe und ihre Relektüren
Freitag, 25. März 2022, 12:15–12:45 Uhr, K2, Hörsäle 17.17 & 17.12
Rahma Khazam, Paris

The New Formlessness

In 2014, the exhibition “Geographies of Contamination” (DRAF, London) surveyed the new formlessness in contemporary art practice: foregrounding permeability and porosity, the works of Olga Balema, David Douard, or Renaud Jerez abandoned formal rigour in favour of the dynamics of hybridization and contamination, questioning the divisions between materials, processes, and forms. Following up on these investigations, more recent works such as Pierre Huyghe’s exhibitions “UUmwelt” (Serpentine Galleries, London, 2018) and “After UUmwelt” (LUMA, Arles, 2021), or Jenna Sutela’s “nimiia cétiï” (2018) have foregrounded the entanglements between humans and technology, thereby spawning new and even more hybridized forms.

The new formlessness epitomized by these works and exhibitions goes hand in hand with other notions of anti-form, past and present, arthistorical and philosophical. “Geographies of Contamination” explicitly references the concept of formlessness put forward in 1929 by Georges Bataille and revived in 1996 by Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois, as a means of breaking down such taxonomical divisions as form vs. content or form vs. matter. The new formlessness also ties in with Robert Morris’s essay “Anti Form” (1968), which highlighted the use of chance and the inherent properties of materials, as in his sculpture “Untitled” (1967), where strips of pink felt were dropped on the ground, evading the artist’s control – or as in the work of Robert Barry, who claimed to be letting his materials, whether gases or radio waves, do what they were supposed to do.

The new formlessness has also been associated with the philosophical movement known as new materialism, which foregrounds the vitality of matter and its agential capacities, thereby recognizing the impact of nonhuman matter on form and challenging the artist’s claim to full authorship of the work. It also draws on similar ideas in speculative realism, thereby challenging gender-based approaches that contrast the feminist dimension of new materialism with the “masculinity” of speculative realism: the new formlessness repudiates such divisions, insofar as the artists constituting it include both women and men.

In this paper, I explore these and other implications of the new formlessness: I highlight the ways in which it reconceptualizes the form, nature and authorship of the work of art, while bringing its history, as well as its canonical works and artists, up to date.
Kurzbiografie Rahma Khazam
MA in Art History and Philosophy PhD in Aesthetics and Art Theory at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
since 2014speaker at international conferences such as “What Is to Be Done? – Discussions in Russian Art Theory and Criticism II” (Jacobs University Bremen, 2019) and “Hacking the Computable” (German Society for Aesthetics, HMDK Stuttgart, 2020)
2017AICA France Prize for Art Criticism
since 2019researcher at ENSAD, Paris; participation in the project “Behavioural Objects”, affiliated to Institut ACTE, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
since 2021member of DGA (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ästhetik), member of AICA (International Association of Art Critics)
Forschungs- bzw. Arbeitsschwerpunkte Modernism; Image Theory; Aesthetics; New Materialism; Speculative Realism
  • From the Object to the Hyperobject: Art After the New Art History, in: Verband österreichischer Kunsthistorikerinnen und Kunsthistoriker (Hgg.): Newest Art History. Wohin geht die Jüngste Kunstgeschichte?, Online-Publikation 2017, S. 77–86.
  • (Interview) Rahma Khazam et/and Benoît Maire, in: CAPC Musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (Hg.): Benoît Maire, Ausst.-Kat., Bordeaux 2018, S. 61–90.
  • (Hg.) A Pragmatic Poetics. Reflections on the Work of Franck Leibovici, Dijon 2018.
  • Genre and Gender, in: Elisabeth Schimana und Nora Bischof (Hgg.): Hidden Alliances / Versteckt Verbunden, Berlin 2019, S. 10–27.
  • Ikonische und spekulative Wende: Von Visualität zu Realität, in: Jonas Etten und Julian Jochmaring (Hgg.): Nach der ikonischen Wende. Aktualität und Geschichte eines Paradigmas, Berlin 2021, S. 265–280.