The catalogue is one of the textual-narrative structures that has had the greatest impact on the construction and modelling of artistic knowledge, and on the creation of its narratives and discourse (by legitimising or delegitimising them). In fact, the construction of art history is based on a process of categorising cultural products, and on a dynamics involving inclusions and exclusions, the formation of hierarchies and silences, of which the catalogue is a fundamental instrument. We therefore consider that the objectives of this project are: first, to unravel the mechanisms underlying the processes of producing catalogues as generators and mediators of knowledge, materialised in diverse narratives and discourses; and, second, to investigate the model of knowledge involved in it – that is, its gnoseology. This is of vital importance to be able to understand, on the one hand, the reason why we know (and hence study) artistic facts in a particular way and, on the other, how the complex and variable epistemological and discursive framework of Art History has been constructed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite this key nature, no systematic study of the catalogue has been undertaken to date. For this reason, we consider that this project fills an important gap in the research dedicated to gaining a better knowledge of the modern construction of Art History.
Within this general framework, ArtCalog focuses its attention on the analysis of catalogues related to Spanish art or to Spanish artists, produced either in Spain or abroad, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This definition of the field of action allows us to verify the initial assumptions about the catalogue according to a particular conceptual axis and from a transnational perspective.
Another crucial objective of this project is also to contribute to the implementation of new methodologies and the development of new interpretative models. In this regard, the analysis incorporates, on the one hand, the intellectual framework associated with network theory, and more specifically with Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory, which describes the production of knowledge as the result of relationships formed among heterogeneous actors that establish a range of networks over time. Thus, in addition to its textual-narrative nature, ArtCatalog also explores the catalogue as a space for the mediation of these interactions.
Likewise, it also includes a series of analysis strategies linked to computational processing and visualisation of large datasets (network analysis, mapping, clustering, /KDD techniques/, etc.). These strategies allow us to pose unprecedented questions about the production and circulation of knowledge associated with the catalogue by making it possible to perform a multi-scale analysis — from the macro-local to the micro-local — and enabling us to investigate the logics (patterns) that define these processes.
Consequently, one of the crucial aims of this project is the construction of a structured data repository (DataCatalog) on art catalogues that allows them to be processed in accordance with the proposed strategies.