Reassembling the Artwork

The Relevance of Assemblage Theory for Art Studies

  • Dan Karlholm


This article discusses how materialist philosopher Manuel Delanda’s “assemblage theory” could be of use for art studies. I begin by situating what I term art studies in relation to art history and comment on the differences. After a selective presentation of Delanda’s social ontology on assemblages, in turn following A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, I relate his theory to the concept of assemblage, its origin in the eighteenth century as well as its references as an art term from the 1950s. Theoretical assistance from Martin Heidegger and Bruno Latour allows me to specify how the notion of assemblage could be used in connection with art studies focused neither on Art nor History but on artworks, as the first assemblage, followed by other assemblages, connecting with other works, agents and institutions, i.e. social phenomena literally assembled or com-posed. I present five types of assemblages of relevance to art studies as a different way of doing history, as something ongoing and openly unfolding (assisted and assembled by us), thus theoretically immune to being “history” in the sense of over.

Keywords: art history, art studies, assemblage theory, artwork, Gilles Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, Martin Heidegger, Bruno Latour

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Karlholm, D. (2021). Reassembling the Artwork: The Relevance of Assemblage Theory for Art Studies. Tahiti, 10(4), 5–17.