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Synthetic Beuys: on nano-materials and the aesthetics of imperceptibility

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journal contribution
posted on 04.01.2021, 11:41 authored by Tincuta HeinzelTincuta Heinzel
This paper brings into attention the paradoxical nature of nano-objects and analyses the relationship between an imperceptible matter (too small to be perceived by the senses) and its forms of sensible manifestation. The development of nano-sciences and nano-technologies would have not been possible without the invention of a number of visualisation instruments (like the STM – Scanning Tunnelling Microscope and the AFM – Atomic Force Microscope). From this perspective, we can speak of nano-particles as “image-objects” (Sacha Loeve), as a mediated matter. If there are a series of research projects related to the nature of epistemological inquiry in the field of nano-sciences and nano-technologies, there are still a few concerns related to the changes that occur in the field of aesthetics when it comes to the apprehension of nano-technologically treated materials. By taking into account the latest developments in the field of nano-technologies applied to textiles, the present paper examines the way the status and the significance of materials change when they are nano-technologically treated. In order to do so, we propose a fictional scenario related to some of Joseph Beuys’ works in which we replace the “traditional” fabrics used by the artist with new ones, nano-technologically produced or treated. By using Joseph Beuys’s artistic approach as a methodological tool of critical enquiry, we are looking to the ways the perceptive, epistemological and semiotic categories are to be re-evaluated when related to nano-technological approaches. The analysis will help to formulate some of the issues artists, designers and researchers should consider when dealing with what we call the “aesthetics of imperceptibility” of nano-materials and nano-technologies.



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Creative Arts

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38 - 46


Fundacio per la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya


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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by FUOC under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Spain Licence (CC BY 3.0 ES). Full details of this licence are available at:

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Dr Tincuta Heinzel. Deposit date: 28 December 2020