Object—Event—Performance: Art, Materiality, and Continuity

Wednesday, February 22, 2023, 17:00-18:30 CET

The SNSF research project Performance: Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge, in collaboration with the SNSF research project Activating Fluxus, hosted t a public presentation of the book titled Object-Event-Performance: Art, Materiality, and Continuity Since the 1960s (2022; ed. by Hanna B. Hölling). The event took place within the Research Wednesday seminar series.

Much of the artwork that rose to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century took on novel forms—such as installation, performance, event, video, film, earthwork, and intermedia works with interactive and networked components—that pose a new set of questions about what art actually is, both physically and conceptually. For conservators, this raises an existential challenge when considering what elements of these artworks can and should be preserved.

This event featured a book that revisits the traditional notions of conservation and museum collecting that developed over the centuries to suit a conception of art as static, fixed, and permanent objects. Conservators and museum professionals increasingly struggle with issues of conservation for works created from the mid-twentieth to the twenty-first century that are unstable over time. As participants in conservation, the contributors to this volume—often non-conservators—form a community of practice that share common interests.

The book asks what it means to conserve artworks that fundamentally address and embody the notion of change and, through this questioning, guide us to reevaluate the meaning of art, of objects, and of materiality itself.  Object-Event-Performance considers a selection of post-1960s artworks that have all been chosen for their instability, changeability, performance elements, and processes that pose questions about their relationship to conservation practices. With chapters by Hannah B Higgins, Hanna B. Hölling, Gregory Zinman, Andrea Gyorody, Alison D’Amato, Megan Metcalf, Rebecca Uchill, Susanne Neubauer, Beryl Graham and Johannes Hedinger, this book aims to become a welcome resource on contemporary conservation for art historians, scholars of performance, dance, theater and museum studies, curators, and conservators.

The book has been published by Bard Graduate Center, within the series Cultural Histories of the Material World (series editor: Peter Miller) and is available from the University of Chicago Press (PDF and cloth).

The event featured an introduction by the book’s editor, Hanna B. Hölling and presentations by contributing authors: Hannah B Higgins, Gregory Zinman, Andrea Gyorody and Megan Mefcalf, followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A moderated by Jules Pelta Feldman.

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