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Dr. A.M. (Anja) Novak

Faculty of Humanities
Capaciteitsgroep Kunstgeschiedenis
Photographer: Eduard Lampe

Visiting address
  • Turfdraagsterpad 15
  • Room number: 2.04
Postal address
  • Postbus 94551
    1090 GN Amsterdam
Contact details
Social media
  • Biography



    Anja Novak studied art history at Leiden University and modern dance at Codarts University of Arts in Rotterdam. Since 1998 she has been working as a lecturer in the field of modern and contemporary art and theory at Leiden University, at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and at the University of Amsterdam. She received her Ph.D. from Leiden University in 2010 with a dissertation on the spectatorship associated with installation art (Space for experience. Installation art and spectatorship, Leiden University, 2010). She has published about installation art and the spectatorship engendered by it, about notions of place in contemporary art, about land art and about photography.


  • Research

    My fields of interest are modern and contemporary art, art theory and aesthetics. In particular, I am interested in how contemporary art forms, such as installation art and performance, challenge traditional notions of art, aesthetics and spectatorship. Transgressing the borders of traditional artistic media and disciplines, these artistic practices invite art audiences to explore new ways of perceiving and thinking. Often, the ‘viewer’ is turned into an active participator, who ‘performs’ the work of art, rather than contemplating it from a detached point of view. An overall aim of my research is to construct theoretical frameworks that allow us to better understand the kind of interactions that these art works provoke.


    More recently, I have taken an interest in notions of nature and interactions between human beings and the material world, which are articulated in modern and contemporary art. On the one hand, artistic representations of nature often challenge traditional dichotomies such as natural versus artificial, subject versus object, etc. They trigger us to perceive of and think about nature in different ways. On the other hand, some art works overtly play upon nostalgic and sentimental feelings and ideas about nature. Combining these various stances, contemporary art expresses the extremely complex, highly charged and often ambiguous character of mankind’s affiliation with nature. In my future research activities I intend to set up a dialogue between these artistic representations and recent theoretical conceptualizations of the material world. In addition, I am recently investigating notions of 'the primitive' in both modern and contemporary art.


  • Publications




    • Novak, A. (2012). Engaging Environments: The Practice of Robert Smithson and Olafur Eliasson as an Instance of Environmental Aesthetics. In I. Commandeur, & T. van Riemsdijk-Zandee (Eds.), Robert Smithson: Art in continual movement (pp. 19-39). Amsterdam: Alauda Publications. [details]


    • Novak, A., & van Kampen, M. (2021). On Myths, Sociale Engineering and Desire. In M. van den Berg, & M. van Kampen (Eds.), Land Art Live: The Flevoland Collection (pp. 70-77). nai/010 publishers.


    • Novak, A. M. (2015). Verlangen naar oorspronkelijkheid. Primitivistische impulsen in de beeldende kunst. Simulacrum, 23(2), 4-10.


    • Novak, A. (2013). Flowers of indeterminacy: Some thoughts on recent paintings by David Powell. In D. Powell (Ed.), It is the month of May ... for me Knokke: Sabine Wachters Fine Arts. [details]


    • Novak, A. M. (2009). The site of installation art. Hovering between inner and outer places. In H. Westgeest (Ed.), Take place. Photography and place from multiple perspectives (pp. 133-162). (Antennae). Amsterdam: Valiz.


    • Novak, A. M. (2010). Ruimte voor beleving. Installatiekunst en toeschouwerschap.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam
    • Stichting IES Abroad Amsterdam