Ann-Sophie Lehmann Former Senior Fellow

Ann-Sophie Lehmann
November 2019 - January 2020


Ann-Sophie Lehmann studied art history in Vienna and in Utrecht, where she obtained her PhD in 2004. She worked as assistant and associate professor at the Department of Media & Culture Studies, Utrecht University. Since 2015, she holds the chair for art history & material culture at the University of Groningen.

Fields of Research

My research investigates how materials, tools, and practices partake in the meaning making of art; how images and texts represent and reflect creative practices; and how knowledge about making engenders material literacy. My approach is transhistorical and includes old and new media and materials.

IKKM Research Project

Childish Things

Despite the material turn, things still have difficulties in theoretical discourses: their materiality somehow makes them appear less serious than media that perform abstractions, such as texts and images. Many researchers associate levelling with things with a loss of critical distance. The prominent notion of the ‘object biography’ mirrors this ambivalence. On the one hand, biographies create attention for the individuality of a thing and how things change and are changed. On the other hand, having a biography implies biological and mental development, which things do not have. The metaphor therefore covers up exclusively thing-specific characteristics. In particular, it implies that things get more interesting as they mature and life has granted them a particular status. Indeed, such ‘wizened’ things have been described as thick (Alder), epistemic (Rheinberger), talking (Daston), knowing (Gosdon) or thought things (Arendt). This project looks at things that do not see eye to eye with scholars and one has to stoop down to in order to study. Things that were designed for children to learn about the material world by handling them, listening to them, and coloring them; things that were not made to ‘grow up’ but to be used up in teaching and learning. During the nineteenth century, when childhood and pedagogy had become established elements of (Western) society, the education of children became not only a vocation, but also created a market for teaching methods and materials to be used in schools and at home. Three different kinds of teaching materials are the focus of this project: the object lesson box, the autobiography of things, and the coloring book.

Selected Publications

Lessons in Art. Art, Education, and Modes of Instruction since 1500, ed. with E. Jorink and B. Ramakers, Leiden: Brill 2019.
„An alphabet of colours. Valcooch’s Rules and the emergence of sense-based learning around 1600“, in: Lessons in Art, ed. by E. Jorink, A. Lehmann & B. Ramakers, Leiden 2019, 168-203.
„Bist Du Holz oder Faden?“, in: Original Bauhaus Übungsbuch, ed. by N. Wiedemeyer, F. Holländer, Berlin 2019.
“Two Digits: Digital Materials against Dystopias of Replacement and Utopias of Participation”, in :Bibliotechnica. Humanist Practice in Digital Times, ed. by John Tresch, Venice 2018, 235-258
“Taking Fingerprints. The Indexical Affordances of Artworks’ Material Surfaces”, in: Spur der Arbeit, ed. by M. Bushart, H. Haug, Paderborn: Fink Verlag 2018, 199-218.

For an overview of academic activities and published work, see also: