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.
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.